What are the Symptoms of Hyponatremia?

J. Beam

Hyponatremia is the result of insufficient sodium in the body fluid that surrounds cells. Proper sodium levels are important in maintaining blood pressure and in keeping nerves and muscles functioning properly. There are several symptoms of hyponatremia, and though it occurs in only a small percentage of people, it is the most common electrolyte disorder treated in the United States.

A urine test is typically used to help diagnose hyponatremia.
A urine test is typically used to help diagnose hyponatremia.

Common symptoms of this condition include fatigue, irritability, headache, and water retention, loss of appetite, and nausea or vomiting. Other symptoms of hyponatremia are mental in nature and include abnormal or confused mental status, hallucinations, and possibly unconsciousness. Often, confusion and changes in a person's mental state are the first serious signs as the brain cells cannot accommodate the swelling caused the water retention that accompanies hyponatremia.

Nausea is a common symptom of hyponatremia.
Nausea is a common symptom of hyponatremia.

Hyponatremia is diagnosed through serum and urine testing. There is almost always an underlying cause of hyponatremia, which must also be diagnosed and treated. Insufficient sodium levels can be treated with intravenous fluids, a restricted diet, and supplemental oxygen. Medications that offset some of the symptoms of hyponatremia can also be administered to restore comfort and prevent seizures.

Symptoms of hyponatremia may include fatigue and irritability.
Symptoms of hyponatremia may include fatigue and irritability.

The causes of hyponatremia include burns, dehydration due to excessive vomiting or diarrhea, congestive heart failure, as a side effect of diuretics, kidney disease, and certain other diseases. Acute hyponatremia, which is a sudden reduction in sodium levels over a 24 to 48 hour period, often due to extreme physical exertion or dehydration, is considered more dangerous than the chronic hyponatremia that can occur with certain diseases or disorders.

Hyponatremia can be life threatening, especially if the brain cells cannot accommodate the swelling that may occur. This condition can also affect the heart. Though some signs of hyponatremia may be confused with other conditions, if a person suspects that he or she has an electrolyte imbalance or has other symptoms of hyponatremia or dehydration, he or she should seek medical attention immediately.

Intravenous fluids may be given to treat insufficient sodium levels.
Intravenous fluids may be given to treat insufficient sodium levels.

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Discussion Comments

chrisinbama

@tonia: I have an aunt who is also on dialysis. She often has problems maintaining her dry weight. She wasn’t really drinking a whole lot.

I was given a brochure about maintaining dry weight. In that brochure, it stated that the best thing to do for keeping dry weight is restricting salt intake. That also helps control the blood pressure.

Renal failure (kidney failure) is hard to deal with sometimes but following the instructions will really make a difference in the way a person feels.

tonia

my brother is on kidney dialysis and he is getting very discouraged. he does not drink hardly anything due to his kidneys. But it doesn't matter he can't seem to stay within his dry weight. What other factors should he be looking at medications, foods, etc.? They calculated his dry weight when he still had some kidney function left, now he apparently has none. Should his doctor be looking into some other factors maybe? So far it's just him drinking too much.

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