What Causes Low Sodium Levels in Elderly

Learn about the causes of low sodium levels in the elderly and how to recognize the symptoms to prevent complications. This article will explore the causes of low sodium levels in the elderly and provide valuable insights into this potentially dangerous condition.

What Causes Low Sodium Levels in Elderly

The main cause of hyponatremia is the low level of sodium in the blood. In normal conditions, the sodium level in the blood is around 135–145 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/liter). However, in cases of hyponatremia, the sodium level in the blood is below 135 mEq/liter.

Under normal conditions, sodium levels in the blood are 135–145 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/liter). A person is said to have hyponatremia if the sodium level in their blood is less than 135 mEq/liter. This decrease in sodium levels can be caused by various factors, including:

  • Hormonal changes
    Lack of adrenal hormones, for example due to Addison’s disease , can affect the balance of water, sodium and potassium levels in the body. Low thyroid hormone levels ( hypothyroidism ) can also cause hyponatremia.
  • Syndrome of inappropriate anti-diuretic hormone(SIADH)
    In SIADH , the body produceslarge amounts of anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) so that water that should be excreted through urine is retained. Excess water in the body will dissolve sodium and cause levels to decrease.
  • Diarrhea or vomiting is severe and lasts a long time.
    This condition can cause the body to lose a lot of electrolytes and fluids, including sodium. The body will also automatically increase levels of the ADH hormone to increase body fluids.
  • Certain medicines
    Medicines, such as diuretics , antidepressants, and pain relievers, can interfere with hormone or kidney function in maintaining sodium levels.
  • Organ disorders
    Heart failure, kidney disease , and cirrhosis can cause fluid to build up in the body and dilute sodium. As a result, sodium levels become low.
  • Drugs in the amphetamine
    class , such as ecstasy, can cause a person to experience severe hyponatremia.

Risk factors for hyponatremia

The following are several factors that can increase a person’s risk of experiencing hyponatremia:

  • Older people, especially those starting to have difficulty caring for themselves or communicating
  • Drinking too much after exercising quite hard, usually during a marathon, or doing the wrong water therapy
  • Using medications, such as diuretics or antidepressants
  • Work as a professional athlete, such as a marathon runner
  • Reduce sodium intake from food

Symptoms of Hyponatremia

Symptoms of hyponatremia can vary, depending on how quickly sodium levels in the blood decrease. If sodium levels decrease gradually (chronic), sufferers usually experience mild complaints. However, if sodium levels fall quickly (acutely), the symptoms that appear can be serious.

Some symptoms that can occur in people with hyponatremia include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • The amount of urine and frequency of urination decreases
  • Sudden heavy sweating
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dazed
  • Weak and tired
  • Muscle cramps or weakness
  • Restless and irritable
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness

When to see a doctor

Immediately consult a doctor if you experience the symptoms mentioned above. It is better to carry out examinations early so that this condition is quickly discovered and can be controlled so that complications can be prevented.

Doctor’s help in the hospital emergency room needs to be done immediately if serious symptoms appear, such as vomiting, confusion, seizures and decreased consciousness.

Diagnosis of Hyponatremia

To diagnose hyponatremia, the doctor will ask questions regarding the patient’s symptoms and medical history, followed by a thorough physical examination.

After the question and answer session and physical test are complete, the doctor will carry out a supporting examination in the form of a blood test. Its function is to measure electrolyte and mineral levels in the body, including sodium levels.

If the blood test results show that the sodium level in the blood is abnormal, the doctor will repeat the sodium level check with a urine test. The results of the urine test will help the doctor to confirm the condition and determine the cause of hyponatremia.

If the sodium level in the blood is low but high in the urine, it means the patient’s body is eliminating too much sodium. However, if the sodium levels in the blood and urine are both low, this could indicate that the patient’s body is not getting enough sodium intake or the patient’s body has excess fluid.

Hyponatremia Treatment

Hyponatremia treatment is adjusted to the severity and cause. In mild hyponatremia, the doctor will improve diet, lifestyle, and adjust the type and dose of medication used. The doctor will also ask the patient to temporarily reduce fluid intake.

For hyponatremia that occurs quickly and causes severe symptoms, doctors can carry out the following treatments:

  • Administering medication to treat symptoms, such as headaches, nausea and seizures
  • Giving electrolyte fluids through an IV, to slowly increase sodium levels in the blood
  • Dialysis , to remove excess fluid from the body if hyponatremia occurs due to impaired kidney function

In addition, hyponatremia that occurs due to certain conditions, such as heart failure or SIADH, can be treated by administering tolvaptan . This drug can help increase sodium levels in the blood.

Complications of Hyponatremia

In chronic hyponatremia, the complications that arise are not an emergency, but they should still not be underestimated. These complications include reduced concentration, the body becoming unbalanced, and osteoporosis.

Meanwhile, in acute hyponatremia, the complications that can arise tend to be more dangerous, namely swelling of the brain which can cause coma and even death. Although it can be experienced by all sufferers of acute hyponatremia, this complication occurs more easily in women who are approaching menopause .

Prevention of Hyponatremia

Hyponatremia can be prevented by maintaining a balance in fluid and sodium levels in the body. Ways that can be done include:

  • Consume drinks that can replace the body’s electrolytes lost during activities or exercise
  • Drink enough water, which is around 2.2 liters/day for women and 3 liters/day for men
  • Undergo treatment if you suffer from a disease that can trigger hyponatremia.

Adequate water consumption can be determined by paying attention to the color of urine. A darker urine color, for example orange or dark yellow, indicates that the body is still lacking water.

Abbas Jahangir

I am a researcher and writer with a background in food and nutritional science. I am the founder of Foodstrend.com, our reputable online platform offering scientifically-backed articles on health, food, nutrition, kitchen tips, recipes, diet, and fitness. With a commitment to providing accurate and reliable information, we strive to empower our readers to make informed decisions about their health and lifestyle choices. Join us on Foodstrend.com's journey toward a healthier and happier lifestyle.

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