If you have ever been diagnosed or hospitalized with hyponatremia, you probably have many questions and concerns about this condition. While your physician is a great source for obtaining this information, many patients may find that they still know very little about what is going on with their body and wish to know more. Learning about this particular imbalance, what causes it and the risk factors can possibly help prevent hyponatremia in the future though.
What is Hyponatremia?
This is a sodium and water imbalance within the body, in which a sodium deficit exists. Normal limits of sodium concentrate are between 136 and 145 mEq/L, or simply milliequivalents per liter, when sodium levels fall below 135 mEq/L, this condition is called hyponatremia. When this deficit is present, the exchange of fluids between cells is altered. The decrease in sodium leads to an increase of water permeating through the cells of the body, leading to swelling. However, hyponatremia is not limited to this. In some cases, total water volume will increase, while the sodium levels remain unchanged. Some patients may also suffer from a form in which they experience an increase in water and sodium, but the increase in water gain increases, creating an imbalance.
Types and Causes
Hyponatremia may either be an acute condition with a rapid onset, or chronic. Acute means that it occurs rapidly and may be caused by trauma, such as burns or very intensive exercise. Chronic sodium imbalances typically occur over a time period. Contributing factors to chronic hyponatremia also include exercise, certain medications, climate changes and age. Those of an older age are at higher risks for development of this condition as well. Certain illnesses, such as gastrointestinal problems leading to vomiting and severe diarrhea can also cause a sodium deficit.
Signs and Symptoms
There are various signs and symptoms associated with a fluid imbalance such as this. While some of these may seem mild, such as fatigue, appetite loss and irritability, there can be serious effects that are life threatening. This can include seizures, loss of consciousness, coma and nausea and vomiting. Although many do not consider nausea and vomiting a serious consequence, this can lead to further loss of sodium from the body which causes further complications, like brain damage. In acute cases, swelling of the brain can occur if treatment is not sought immediately.
Diagnostic Tests for Hyponatremia
The signs and symptoms of this condition mimic that of several other diseases and disorders so your physician will have to run some tests. In addition to a thorough physical examination, he or she will probably order blood and urine tests. Your physician may order a blood osmolality test, urine osmolality, a sodium blood test and a urine sodium test. These findings will either confirm or deny the absence of a sodium imbalance.
Hyponatremia. Mayo Clinic. 14, July 2009. Viewed 18, November 2010. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hyponatremia/DS00974
Hyponatremia. Medline Plus. Updated 6, November 2009. Viewed 18, November 2010. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000394.htm