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Hyponatremia

By: Tabitha Mishra
| Last updated: June 5, 2021

What Does Hyponatremia Mean?

Hyponatremia is a medical term that refers to a low concentration of sodium in the blood.

Sodium is an important electrolyte that affects blood pressure, the performance of nerve and muscle functions, and urine production.

A blood sodium level below 135 mEq/L indicates a case of hyponatremia.

Safeopedia Explains Hyponatremia

The main cause of hyponatremia water intoxication (excess intake of water). It can also result from underlying medical conditions like congestive heart failure and liver disease. Medications like diuretics and antidepressants can also contribute to lower sodium levels, increasing the risk of hyponatremia.

Workers, especially those in the oil and gas, manufacturing, construction, and utility industries should be educated about the importance of maintaining the right balance of fluids in the body. Given their level of exertion and exposure to heat, these workers may attempt to overcorrect by drinking excessive amounts of fluids, which can result in hyponatremia.

Symptoms of Hyponatremia

Symptoms and indications of hyponatremia include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Seizures

Acute hyponatremia can be dangerous. Sodium levels dropping very quickly can cause excess water to penetrate brain cells, resulting in cerebral edema. This can cause swelling in the brain, resulting in brain damage that can lead to coma or even death.

Risk Factors

Other than excess intake of water, risk factors for hyponatremia include:

  • Use of diuretics, antidepressants, and pain medications that cause increased urnation and sweating
  • Preexisting conditions (including heart failure, kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes insipidus, and Cushing's syndrome)
  • Severe diarrhea and vomiting
  • SIADH (syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone), Addison’s disease, and low thyroid hormone level
  • Primary polydipsia
  • Use of illegal amphetamines, such as ecstasy
  • Intense physical exertion

How to Treat Hyponatremia

The proper treatment approach for hyponatremia depends on the duration of the condition and the associated symptoms.

Restricting fluid intake is the first line of treatment. Mild cases of hyponatremia can be treated with minor adjustments to diet, lifestyle, or medications.

Severe or acute hyponatremia, however, may require fluids and electrolytes to be administered intravenously, along with treatments for the underlying causes.

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