Recognizing hyponatremia symptoms

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Hyponatremia is a condition where sodium levels drop, causing symptoms such as dizziness and swelling. It can be caused by heart, liver, or kidney failure, excessive use of diuretics, or prolonged exercise in extreme temperatures. Early recognition is important to avoid life-threatening symptoms such as seizures and coma. Treatment involves intravenous sodium replacement and limiting water intake.

Hyponatremia is a medical condition that causes your sodium level to drop enough to cause physiological problems. If left untreated, this condition can be life-threatening. Recognizing the early symptoms of hyponatremia, such as dizziness, nausea, and swollen hands and feet, can help avoid a serious and life-threatening situation characterized by muscle spasms, seizures, coma, and respiratory arrest. Hyponatremia is most often caused by congestive heart failure, liver and kidney failure, excessive use of diuretics, prolonged vigorous exercise, or exercise in extreme temperatures.

The typical first symptoms of hyponatremia are dizziness, nausea, and swelling of the hands or feet. Sodium is an essential element in the body that controls the fluid balance in the cells. The dizzy feeling common with hyponatremia is the result of the body’s inability to regulate blood pressure properly when sodium levels are low. Swelling in the extremities is caused by the tendency of cells to hold water and swell when sodium levels drop.

These early symptoms should be observed if a person has congestive heart failure, kidney failure, liver failure, is on chemotherapy, uses diuretics frequently, or exercises excessively, especially in hot weather. Hyponatremia has become a growing problem among marathon and triathlete runners because fluid intake is often stressed during competition, and aggressive hydration coupled with excessive sweating depletes sodium rapidly. Runners should look for early signs of hyponatremia as well as a white powdery residue or white lines on their clothing, indicating excessive sodium loss. When these symptoms are observed, a runner should avoid water and see a race doctor quickly.

Life-threatening symptoms of hyponatremia are muscle spasms, weakness, seizures, or coma. These signs require urgent medical attention. When depleted sodium levels drop to a critical level, brain edema or swelling begins and explains these more severe physiological responses. Immediate medical treatment is required, otherwise brain edema could lead to respiratory arrest.

Hyponatremia is treated by starting intravenous sodium replacement and giving drugs to control symptoms. A blood test is used to assess sodium loss and establish a baseline from which improvement in the condition can be objectively monitored. Your water intake will also be severely limited and closely monitored or completely restricted. The cause of the hyponatremia will be determined and treated if necessary.

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