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Care During Chemotherapy and Beyond

Hyponatremia (Low Sodium)



What Is Hyponatremia?

Hyponatremia is an electrolyte imbalance and is indicated by a low 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.  Sodium chloride is known commonly as table salt.

What Causes Hyponatremia?

Certain conditions may cause a lack of sodium in the blood. Specific causes of hyponatremia include:

  • Water intoxication (water replacement without replacement of blood electrolytes).
  • Kidney, heart or liver problems.
  • Drugs - such as diuretics, Heparin, certain chemotherapy drugs (AminoglutethimideCyclophosphamide and Vincristine).
  • Conditions related to steroid, hormone or defects in your metabolism such as:  Syndrome of Inappropriate Anti-Diuretic Hormone (SIADH) - This occurs when a hormone, ADH, is not being properly regulated. You may be urinating frequently, and your kidneys are excreting too much sodium. This may occur as a result of many conditions, including certain types of lung cancer.

What Are Some Symptoms of Hyponatremia To Look For?

  • You may not have any symptoms, unless your blood sodium levels are significantly decreased.
  • The presence of symptoms is noticed with abrupt changes in your sodium level. If your sodium levels have declined gradually, you may not notice any symptoms of hyponatremia.
  • Slightly disoriented.
  • Confusion, or coma, with a significant drop in blood sodium levels.

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

  • Follow your healthcare provider's instructions regarding increasing your blood sodium level. If your blood test results show sodium levels are severely decreased, he or she may suggest that you restrict your water intake
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol, as these can cause you to have electrolyte disturbances.
  • Follow all of your healthcare provider's recommendations for follow up blood work and laboratory tests.

Drugs That May Be Prescribed By Your Doctor for Hyponatremia:

  • Sodium levels must be corrected carefully. If your blood test results indicate you have a very low sodium level, your healthcare provider will cautiously correct the levels, to a "safe level."
  • Intravenous (IV) fluids with a high-concentration of sodium, and/or diuretics to raise your blood sodium levels.
  • Loop Diuretics - also known as "water pills" as they work to raise blood sodium levels, by making you urinate out extra fluid. The fluid that is lost (called "free water") is usually replaced with an IV solution that contains a high level of sodium. A common example of this type of medication is Furosemide (e.g Lasix). You may receive this medication alone or in combination with other medications.

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

  • A sudden episode of confusion, or disorientation.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Poor appetite that does not improve.
  • Shortness of breath, chest pain or discomfort; should be evaluated immediately.

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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.