Sodium Deficiency: A Patient's Guide

Sodium Deficiency: A Patient's Guide
Page content

Sodium is a mineral that assists the potassium in the body with maintaining blood pressure and proper water distribution. It is also important in ensuring that nerve impulses are transmitted properly and it plays a major role in maintaining proper acid-base balance in the body. The body excretes any excess sodium in the urine. A sodium deficiency, also referred to as hyponatremia, can lead to a variety of symptoms and when the deficiency is severe, the patient may go into shock.


Patients who are deficient in this mineral may experience weakness, fatigue, headache, being disoriented, nausea, apathy, muscle cramps, and cramps in the extremities. In rare cases, particularly when the deficiency is severe, a patient may experience decreased blood pressure which can lead to shock. Other more serious symptoms include seizure, coma, muscle function decrease, swelling, and certain other neurological symptoms.

When patients do not take in enough sodium to maintain healthy levels in the body, a sodium deficiency occurs. Heavy perspiration, often due to excessive heat, is the most common cause of this mineral deficiency. Once the body becomes grossly dehydrated and deficient in this mineral, normal body activity patterns become affected leading to the symptoms discussed above.

Other causes include a disease or condition leading to the body not being able to process and use sodium correctly, diuretics, being of advanced age, low-sodium diets, and excessive consumption of fluids.

Infants and children age ten and younger should be getting 120 milligrams of sodium daily. Adults and children over the age of ten should be getting 500 milligrams daily. Adults should not exceed 3,000 milligrams per day because getting too much of this mineral can lead to health problems such as high blood pressure.


Diagnosing this deficiency often involves a physical exam, blood testing, and sometimes urine testing. During the physical exam, the doctor will take and record the patient’s vital signs, discuss the patient’s symptoms with them, and ask them about their medical history. Next, they will send the patient to have their blood drawn and this blood will be analyzed in a lab to determine if their sodium levels are low. A urine test may be ordered to help determine the cause of the deficiency.


Treating this deficiency is relatively easy. The patient will need to correct their deficiency by taking in enough sodium to replenish what was lost. Common treatment methods include decreasing fluid intake (if the patient’s deficiency is due to excessive fluid intake), intravenous sodium chloride, increasing fluid intake (if dehydration was the cause), increasing sodium intake gradually, making a medication adjustment (if medication is the cause), or treating the underlying condition (if a medical condition is the cause).


Lab Tests Online. (2010). Sodium. Retrieved on February 6, 2010 from Lab Tests Online:

Health Vitamins Guide. (2010). Sodium. Retrieved on February 6, 2010 from Health Vitamins Guide:

Image Credits

Phlebotomy Tray: Bubbels –