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Hypernatremia (High Sodium)



What Is Hypernatremia?

Hypernatremia is an electrolyte imbalance and is indicated by a high level of sodium in the blood.  The normal adult value for sodium is 136-145 mEq/L.  Sodium is an element, or an electrolyte, that is found in the blood.

What Causes Hypernatremia?

Certain conditions may cause an excess of sodium in the blood. Specific causes of hypernatremia include:

  • Dehydration or a loss of body fluids from prolonged vomiting, diarrhea, sweating or high fevers.
  • Dehydration from not drinking enough water.
  • Drugs such as steroids, licorice, and certain blood pressure lowering medicines.
  • Certain endocrine diseases such as diabetes (when very frequent urination occurs) or aldosteronism.
  • You may eat a lot of salt.
  • Hyperventilation (breathing too fast).

What Are Some Symptoms of Hypernatremia To Look For?

  • You may not have any symptoms, unless your blood sodium levels are significantly elevated.
  • Dizziness when you stand up or change positions (you may be dehydrated).
  • Severe sweating or fever; vomiting and diarrhea with markedly elevated sodium levels, if your hypernatremia is due to a loss of body fluids.

Things You Can Do If Your Blood Test Results Indicate Hypernatremia:

  • Follow your healthcare provider's instructions regarding lowering your blood sodium level. If your blood levels are severely elevated, your health care professional may suggest that you receive intravenous (IV) fluids in the hospital or outpatient department, and monitor your levels.
  • Sodium levels must be corrected carefully. If you have a very high sodium level, your healthcare provider will cautiously correct the levels, to a "safe level."
  • It is important that you stay well hydrated if blood test results show that you have hypernatremia. Drink two to three quarts of fluid every 24 hours, unless you are instructed otherwise.
  • Follow all of your healthcare provider's recommendations for follow up blood work and laboratory tests.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol, as these can cause you to have electrolyte disturbances.

Drugs That May Be Prescribed By Your Doctor for Hypernatremia:

  • Intravenous (IV) fluids, or diuretics to lower your blood sodium levels. You will receive fluids if you are dehydrated, and you will receive loop diuretics if you have excess fluid in your body, but still are retaining sodium in your blood.
  • Loop Diuretics - are also known as "water pills" as they work to decrease blood sodium levels, by making you urinate out extra fluid. When you lose fluid through the kidneys, you will lose potassium and sodium as well. A common example of this type of medication is Furosemide (e.g.Lasix).

When To Call Your Doctor or Health Care Provider About Hypernatremia:

  • Severe constipation, unrelieved by laxatives, lasting 2 to 3 days.
  • Severe diarrhea (greater than 5 stools per day).
  • Nausea that interferes with your ability to eat, and is unrelieved by any prescribed medications.
  • Vomiting (vomiting more than 4-5 times in a 24 hour period).
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Poor appetite that does not improve.
  • Shortness of breath, chest pain or discomfort; should be evaluated immediately.
  • If you feel suddenly confused.

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Note:  We strongly encourage you to talk with your health care professional about your specific medical condition and treatments. The information contained in this website is meant to be helpful and educational, but is not a substitute for medical advice.