Hyponatremia

Hyponatremia is when the amount of salt (sodium) in your blood is too low. When sodium levels are low, your cells will absorb extra water and swell. The swelling happens throughout the body, but it mostly affects the brain. Severe brain swelling (cerebral edema), seizures, or coma can happen.

CAUSES

  • Heart, kidney, or liver problems.

  • Thyroid problems.

  • Adrenal gland problems.

  • Severe vomiting and diarrhea.

  • Certain medicines or illegal drugs.

  • Dehydration.

  • Drinking too much water.

  • Low-sodium diet.

SYMPTOMS

  • Nausea and vomiting.

  • Confusion.

  • Lethargy.

  • Agitation.

  • Headache.

  • Twitching or shaking (seizures).

  • Unconsciousness.

  • Appetite loss.

  • Muscle weakness and cramping.

DIAGNOSIS

Hyponatremia is identified by a simple blood test. Your caregiver will perform a history and physical exam to try to find the cause and type of hyponatremia. Other tests may be needed to measure the amount of sodium in your blood and urine.

TREATMENT

Treatment will depend on the cause.

  • Fluids may be given through the vein (IV).

  • Medicines may be used to correct the sodium imbalance. If medicines are causing the problem, they will need to be adjusted.

  • Water or fluid intake may be restricted to restore proper balance.

The speed of correcting the sodium problem is very important. If the problem is corrected too fast, nerve damage (sometimes unchangeable) can happen.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Only take medicines as directed by your caregiver. Many medicines can make hyponatremia worse. Discuss all your medicines with your caregiver.

  • Carefully follow any recommended diet, including any fluid restrictions.

  • You may be asked to repeat lab tests. Follow these directions.

  • Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs.

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You develop worsening nausea, fatigue, headache, confusion, or weakness.

  • Your original hyponatremia symptoms return.

  • You have problems following the recommended diet.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have a seizure.

  • You faint.

  • You have ongoing diarrhea or vomiting.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.