When patients are admitted in the hospital for serum sodium correction, they often ask what is hyponatremia and why it is necessary to perform correction. Hyponatremia is a condition where there is an electrolyte abnormality in the body. Sodium is very important in the body, and the balance of sodium ensures normal cellular function. Normal serum sodium levels are of 135-145 mEq/L. If you are diagnosed with hyponatremia, your serum sodium levels often drop below 125 mEq/L.
Normally, the kidneys regulate the water balance in the body by removing as much as 15-20 liters of free water daily. As a response, the hypothalamus sends a thirst signal for you to consume enough water to replace the water that was removed from your body. When there is a presence of hormonal imbalance or a presence of a medical condition, the water-salt balance can be affected. To further understand what is hyponatremia, the amount of water that you have in your body is greater compared to the amount of sodium that is present in your system. This imbalance often results to several manifestations such as confusion, obtundation, nausea, vomiting, as well as weakness. Severe cases often show seizures, coma, and even death. Certain drugs can also cause hyponatremia such as anti-depressants, pain medications, as well as the controversial Ecstasy pill.
Mortality rate for hyponatremia that is less than 125 mEq/L is very significant. Symptomatic hyponatremia is an emergency medical condition that needs prompt intervention to prevent worsening of life-threatening complications. 50% of patients that has serum sodium level that is less than 105 mEq/L often die due to complications of hyponatremia that includes swelling of brain tissues. Patients observed to have ST-elevation myocardial infarction that has hyponatremia has worsening prognosis that is highly dependent on the severity of the condition. Cirrhotic patients that experience persistent ascites (fluid accumulation in the abdomen) that have low serum sodium levels while waiting for liver transplant have significant high mortality risk. Hyponatremia affects all people of all race and gender, while elderly people are more prone to having hyponatremia because of the presence of chronic conditions.
Now that your question of what is hyponatremia has been answered, be on the look-out for any presenting signs and symptoms of the condition, especially if you or someone in your family has liver, kidney, heart, and hormonal problems that increase the risk of having hyponatremia.