Low sodium symptoms

These days, sodium has a pretty bad reputation because it is the culprit of high blood pressure. Many people are buying low- or reduced-sodium goods to reduce intake, which is not all in all a bad thing (there’s always a ‘but’)…BUT sodium (an electrolyte) plays very important roles in the body: it is essential for good health and proper bodily functioning. Did you know that, just as too high of blood sodium levels are bad, so too are low levels of sodium in the blood? Finding the middle ground between what is a healthy intake and what is an unhealthy intake (as well as a healthy level) is vital; we need sodium for nerve function, muscle function, cell function, and to maintain a healthy blood pressure. When sodium levels are not at a normal level, we enter into a state of hyponatremia (low sodium): there is not enough sodium in the fluid outside the cells. This very dangerous condition should and can be prevented.

Sodium Levels
Sodium levels are not to be messed with. For the most part, the body does a good job of regulating all electrolyte levels, but there are always instances when this just does not happen.

Physical Symptoms of Hyponatremia
The first symptoms of too little sodium in the body are often physical. They include:

  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle cramping
  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle twitching (which can become seizures)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and/or vomiting

Other Symptoms
The brain is very sensitive to sodium levels when they are high, but particularly when they’re low. When there is not enough sodium in body fluids, excess water may enter the cells and cause swelling. When this happens to brain cells, it becomes very dangerous. The symptoms resulting from this would include:

  • Mental confusion
  • Limited alertness
  • Irritability
  • Hallucinations
  • Coma can result
  • Without treatment, a brain herniation (when the  swollen cells cause brain tissue to move) could occur, leading to stroke and even death

Causes of Hyponatremia

Knowing what causes hyponatremia, and now that you know it is a very serious and sometimes life-threatening condition, taking steps to prevent hyponatremia can be very beneficial for your health. Actually, there isn’t just one cause of hyponatremia; there are quite a few. Some of them cannot be controlled, but the ones that can should be watched.

  • Water intoxication (water replacement without replacement of electrolytes)
  • Kidney, heart, or liver problems
  • Certain drugs, such as diuretics, Heparin, and some chemotherapy drugs
  • Disorders in organs that are responsible for regulating electrolyte (specifically sodium) balance in the body
  • Receiving too much fluid through the veins
  • Alcoholism
  • Maintaining a low salt diet for extended periods of time, for example, a few months
  • Severe and prolonged diarrhea
  • Prolonged vomiting
  • Excessive sweat loss through strenuous exercise
  • Hypothalamus and pituitary gland disorders
  • Certain types of cancer
  • Adrenal insufficiency
  • Hypothyroidism

Talk to a Physician

Always talk with a physician if you think you are experiencing any of the symptoms that could be related to low sodium levels in the blood. It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to life-threatening conditions. If your doctor diagnoses you with hyponatremia, be sure to follow the instructions to the tee. It is essential to increase your sodium intake through the diet, and it may help to drink Gatorade or other sports drinks that have electrolytes, while decreasing the intake of plain water. He or she will recommend that you avoid alcohol and caffeine, which is good advice to follow as both of these can affect sodium levels. Your physician may look into the condition a little more, looking for an underlying cause; if one is found, he or she will treat that as well. Follow-up blood tests to continuously check levels are also highly recommended.

Last updated on Jan 3rd, 2011 and filed under Nutritional Information. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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