Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- Hyponatremia facts
- What is hyponatremia (low blood sodium)?
- What causes hyponatremia (low blood sodium)?
- What are the symptoms of hyponatremia (low blood sodium)?
- How is hyponatremia (low blood sodium) diagnosed?
- How is hyponatremia treated (low blood sodium)?
- Find a local Internist in your town
What are the symptoms of hyponatremia (low blood sodium)?
When sodium levels in the body are low, water tends to enter cells, causing them to swell. When this occurs in the brain, it is referred to as cerebral edema. Cerebral edema is particularly dangerous because the brain is confined in the skull without room for expansion, and the swelling can lead to brain damage as the pressure increases within the skull. Cerebral edema is only a danger in severe cases of hyponatremia.
In chronic hyponatremia, in which the blood sodium levels drop gradually over time, symptoms are typically less severe than with acute hyponatremia (a sudden drop in blood sodium level). Symptoms can be very nonspecific and can include:
- confusion or altered mental state,
- seizures, and
- decreased consciousness which can proceed to coma and death.
Other possible symptoms include:
- muscle spasms or cramps,
- weakness, and tiredness.
Nausea and vomiting may accompany any of the symptoms.
How is hyponatremia (low blood sodium) diagnosed?
The symptoms of hyponatremia are nonspecific, so a blood test measuring the sodium level is required to confirm the diagnosis of hyponatremia. Sometimes the medical history (such as prolonged vomiting or excessive sweating) will suggest the diagnosis. In other cases, further blood tests, urine tests, and imaging studies may be needed in order to determine the exact cause of the hyponatremia.
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