Why is low blood sodium (hyponatremia) a health concern for older adults? How is it treated?
Answers from Paul Y. Takahashi, M.D.
Low blood sodium (hyponatremia) occurs when you have an abnormally low amount of sodium in your blood, or when you have too much water in your blood. Low blood sodium is common in older adults, especially those who are hospitalized or living in long-term care facilities.
Older adults usually become ill with hyponatremia due to age-related causes that affect the way the body handles the balance of sodium and water, such as:
- Taking certain medications, such as diuretics, antidepressants and pain medications
- Changes in kidney function, such as decreased kidney size or decreased blood flow through the kidneys
- Severe vomiting or diarrhea
- Liver failure (cirrhosis)
- Kidney failure
- Heart failure
- Having high levels of anti-diuretic hormone, which causes you to retain water
- Drinking too much water
- Urinating less frequently
- Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
- Addison's disease, a condition affecting the adrenal gland
The signs and symptoms of hyponatremia vary. The only way a doctor can confirm whether you have hyponatremia is by a blood test. Signs and symptoms of hyponatremia may include:
- Drowsiness or fatigue
- Loss of consciousness or coma
Hyponatremia treatments may include changing a medication that affects your sodium level, changing the amount of water you drink, or changing the amount of salt in your diet.
Aug. 19, 2011
See more Expert Answers
- Sterns RH. Causes of hyponatremia. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed April 14, 2011.
- Sterns RH. Overview of the treatment of hyponatremia. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed April 14, 2011.
- Sterns RH. Diuretic-induced hyponatremia. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed April 14, 2011.
- Gibbs MA, et al. Electrolyte disturbances. In: Marx JA, et al. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/page.do?sid=1144971942&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05472-0..00123-7&isbn=978-0-323-05472-0&type=bookPage§ionEid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05472-0..00123-7&uniqId=239149699-4. Accessed April 13, 2011.