A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Why some people have low sodium levels in their blood

Most Americans eat more sodium than their bodies require. Too much sodium can worsen high blood pressure and heart failure. For these reasons, doctors advise many Americans to reduce the amount of sodium they eat. But some people have low blood sodium levels, even though they may have plenty of sodium in their bodies.

Sodium Too Low inside

Symptoms of a low sodium level include nausea, vomiting, headache, confusion, feeling weak or tired, restlessness, muscle weakness, spasms or cramps and seizures or passing out.

Hyponatremia explained

The technical word for having a blood sodium level that’s lower than normal is “hyponatremia.”

“Hyponatremia is very common and often occurs alongside other medical problems,” said Dr. Deepa Soodi, cardiovascular disease fellow at Marshfield Clinic Health System. “Among hospitalized patients, 15-20% have low blood sodium levels.”

The main issue with hyponatremia is someone has too much water in the body, which dilutes sodium levels. One condition that can cause this is heart failure. That means the heart cannot pump efficiently enough to supply your body with the blood it needs. Liver and kidney disease are also common causes.

“Less frequently, hyponatremia can be caused by drinking too much alcohol, dehydration from diarrhea or the use of certain medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), sometimes used to treat depression or epilepsy,” Dr. Soodi said.

Low sodium symptoms

In many cases, you may not experience any symptoms. However, the most common symptoms include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling restless or irritable
  • Muscle weakness, spasms or cramps
  • Seizures or passing out

“These are symptoms for a variety of conditions, but it is important to get checked out because hyponatremia can cause more serious problems like brain swelling or nerve damage,” said Dr. Soodi.

Hyponatremia is typically diagnosed with blood work.

If treatment is needed

Talk to you primary care provider or go to the emergency department if you have these symptoms, especially if you have a history of low salt levels. Except in severe cases, hyponatremia can be treated without being admitted to the hospital.

Treatment will depend on what is causing your low blood sodium levels. Treatment might include limiting fluids or adjusting medications. Do not stop any medicines without speaking to a doctor. If left untreated, complications can include mental status changes, seizures, coma or even death.

“Fortunately, there are some tips to prevent hyponatremia,” said Dr. Soodi. “Like many disease prevention methods, they include limiting alcohol, managing chronic medical conditions and eating a balanced diet.”

For low blood sodium concerns, talk to a Marshfield Clinic Health System provider.

Schedule appointment Message your provider

Related Shine365 articles

Pacemaker surgery: Fixing low heart rate or bradycardia

Sock marks may signal high blood pressure

Causes of fainting: A sign of cardiac issues

  1. Mar 8, 2022
    • Mar 9, 2022
  2. Sep 21, 2020
  3. Aug 27, 2020
    • Sep 19, 2020
  4. Aug 3, 2020
    • Aug 6, 2020
  5. Feb 27, 2020
    • Feb 27, 2020
    • May 31, 2020
      • Jun 1, 2020
  6. Jan 29, 2020
    • Jan 31, 2020
  7. Jun 19, 2018
    • Jun 20, 2018

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

View our comment policy