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Sodium Deficiency Information

written by: AlyssaAst • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 1/23/2010

A serious and possibly life threatening condition is sodium deficiency. This results when the natural sodium levels in the body become too low or are depleted. A wide range of symptoms can result from the decrease in sodium levels. Treatment for this condition involves replenishing the sodium supply

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    What is Sodium Deficiency?

    Sodium deficiency, also known as hyponatermia, is a result of the sodium levels in the blood decreasing to a point the body is almost depleted of this important nutrient. Normal sodium levels within the body should range from 136-145 mM. If sodium levels drop to below 130 mM, the body begins experiencing the symptoms of hyponatermia. If levels continue to decrease, serious and life threatening complications can occur, such as seizures and coma.

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    A common cause of this deficiency is the body's own inability to correctly process and use sodium. This generally occurs due to an underlying condition or disease. A common culprit of this deficiency is maintaining low sodium diets for prolonged periods of time.

    Other causes of the condition include prolonged and excessive sweating. Diuretics have shown to also cause this condition if a proper and balanced diet is not used in combination with the medications. Elderly patients are at an increased risk of suffering from hyponatermia.

    Severe or prolonged vomiting or diarrhea can also lead to low levels of sodium in the body due to dehydration. Oddly enough, excessive intake of fluids can also result in a depleted sodium supply. An increased intake of fluids will dilute the blood stream and cause inadequate sodium levels.

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    Low sodium levels can cause a number of symptoms. Generally, symptoms include disorientation, tiredness, and headache. Muscle cramps, and nausea are other common signs of low sodium levels. If the condition remains for a prolonged period of time, coma and seizures can occur. Other sever complications include neurological symptoms, such as swelling and decreased muscle functions.

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    Proper diagnosis of this condition is simple. A blood sample is collected and used to measure the sodium levels within the blood. An accurate reading can be acquired through a blood sample. Other tests include a urine sample or fecal sample.

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    Treatment for this condition is fairly simple once it has been properly diagnosed. It is often treated by replenishing the sodium levels back to normal numbers. This can be done using an intravenous infusion of a sodium chloride solution. Other treatment options include gradually increasing sodium intake. If the condition is caused from dehydration, an increase of fluids will be required. However, if it is caused from excessive fluid intake, a decrease in fluids will be recommended.

    Often, if the condition is caused by an underlying health condition or use of medication, a doctor will choose another appropriate course of treatment. If medication is the cause, it may be recommended to switch to another medication or a change in dosage may be required. If a medical condition is the culprit, such as adrenal gland disorders, treating the underlying condition will be required.

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