• Hypernatremia—Adult

    Definition

    Hypernatremia is a condition in which the level of sodium in the body is too high. This happens when there is an imbalance in the amount of water and sodium in the body—too little water, too much sodium. This condition may be serious. It requires care from your doctor.

    Causes

    The main cause of hypernatremia is having more water leave your body than enter it. This causes dehydration . A person can become dehydrated in different ways, such as:

    Risk Factors

    Risk factors include:
    • Not getting enough fluids
    • Losing too much fluid
    • Advanced age
    • Having certain medical conditions (eg, diabetes or kidney disorder)

    Symptoms

    Symptoms may include:
    • Being thirsty
    • Dry mouth
    • Serious symptoms:
      • Brain dysfunction
      • Confusion
      • Muscle twitching
      • Seizure
      • Coma
    If left untreated, the condition may lead to death.
    Dry Mouth
    Dry Mouth and Throat
    Dry mouth is a symptom of hypernatremia.
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

    Diagnosis

    Your doctor will:
    • Ask about your symptoms
    • Ask about your fluid intake and your urine output
    • Take your medical history
    • Do a physical exam
    Tests may include:
    • Blood test—to check the sodium levels, other salt levels, and sugar levels in your blood. Kidney function may also be checked with a blood test.
    • Urine test—to check for urine sodium levels and sugar levels

    Treatment

    Fluid Replacement

    To regain a proper balance of fluids in your body, liquid can be given to you either by mouth or through an IV (needle in your vein). The fluid will contain a specific concentration of water, sugar, and sodium. Reintroducing fluids slowly into your body will lower the sodium to a normal level. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you.

    Prevention

    To help reduce your chance of getting hypernatremia, take these steps:
    • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids.
    • Work with your doctor to manage any health conditions effectively.

    RESOURCES

    American Academy of Family Physicians http://www.aafp.org/

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases http://www2.niddk.nih.gov/

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    The College of Family Physicians of Canada http://www.cfpc.ca/

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/

    References

    Adrogué HJ, Madias NE. Hypernatremia. N Engl J Med . 2000 May 18; 342(20):1493-1499.

    Chassagne P, Druesne L, Capet C, Ménard JF, Bercoff E. Clinical presentation of hypernatremia in elderly patients: a case control study. J Am Geriatr Soc . 2006 Aug; 54(8):1225-1230.

    Dehydration and hypovolemia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/ . Updated May 5, 2011. Accessed August 18, 2011.

    Hypernatremia. The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/sec13/ch167/ch167b.html#v1149497 . Updated May 2009. Accessed August 18, 2011.

    Sodium. The Merck Manual Home Health Handbook for Patients and Caregivers website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/sec14/ch171/ch171b.html#v1151342 . Updated August 2008. Accessed August 17, 2011.

    Stuart W, Smellie A, Heald A. Hyponatraemia and hypernatraemia: pitfalls in testing. BMJ . 2007 March 3; 334(7591): 473-476.

    Revision Information

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