What Does Hypernatremia Mean?
Hypernatremia refers to a high concentration of sodium in the blood.
Sodium is an important electrolyte that helps muscles and nerves perform their functions in body. Sodium also affects blood pressure and aids in proper urine production by maintaining concentration gradients in the kidney. However, excess sodium content can impede the body's normal functioning.
Safeopedia Explains Hypernatremia
The most common cause of hypernatremia is an insufficient intake of water. Inadequate hydration leads to a rise in the serum sodium concentration greater than 145 mmo/L.
Hypernatremia is commonly found in older adults and infants but can also affect individuals working in hot environments such as construction sites and manufacturing plants. Individuals working in such environments should be educated about the dangers of water loss in the body and adequate provisions should be provided with means to hydrate at the work site.
Symptoms of Hypernatremia
Thirst and extreme fatigue are the major symptoms of hypernatremia.
Other symptoms manifest neurologically and include confusion, seizures, muscle twitching or spasms, and even coma. These neurological effects are due to an osmotic shift of water out of the brain cells.
The elderly are at higher risk of hypernatremia due a decreased sensitivity to thirst that comes with age.
Hypernatremia can also be caused by certain medical conditions that result in dehydration, fever, and severe diarrhea. Uncontrolled diabetes, kidney disease, and certain medications can also cause these sodium imbalances.
How to Treat Hypernatremia
Milder cases of hypernatremia can be treated by gradually increasing fluid intake in order to rebalance the body's electrolyte levels.
More severe cases will require medical intervention and intravenous rehydration.
In either case, a medical professional or medical first responder should assess anyone who has succumbed to hypernatremia and determine the severity of their condition and the accompanying treatment plan.
Serious cases of hypernatremia should be handled carefully. Correcting it too rapidly can cause cerebral edema and seizures as water moves from the serum into the brain cells. Serum sodium levels should be decreased by not more than 10 to 12 mq/L in a 24-hour period, with levels monitored every two to four hours during the acute phase of correction.