Hypernatremia (high level of sodium in blood) is a concentration of sodium above 145 mEq (milliequivalents) per blood liter.
In this condition, the person’s body consists of too little water relative to sodium amount. The sodium concentration in blood usually increases abnormally high when water loss exceeds sodium loss, generally when an individual drinks too little water. High concentration of sodium in blood implies that an individual either does not feel thirsty when he or she should, or he or she is thirsty, but cannot take enough water to drink.
Hypernatremia can also be seen in individuals with excessive sweating, abnormal kidney function, fever, vomiting, or diarrhea. Hypernatremia is most likely occur in the elderly. Commonly, thirst sense is slower to progress in elderly and is less intense than in younger individual. Elderly people, who are demented and bedridden can be unable to take water to drink even if their thirst sense is functioning. Additionally, their kidney is less able to concentrate their urine in advanced age. Older individuals who use diuretic, which forces kidney to excrete more water, are especially at Hypernatremia risk, particularly, when they become sick and don’t drink enough water or when the weather is hot.
Hypernatremia is a serious condition, especially in elderly. About 50% of all older individuals hospitalized for such condition, die. However, the death rate can be high because many of the individuals have a serious underlying diseases that are allowing the Hypernatremia to progress. Hypernatremia may also happen when the kidney excrete excessive water amount, as in diabetes insipidus disease.
In individuals, who have diabetes insipidus, either the kidney does not respond properly to the antidiuretic hormone or pituitary gland secreting to little antidiuretic hormone. Despite the excessive loss of water from kidneys, patients who have diabetes insipidus seldom progress Hypernatremia if they have access to water and normal thirst sense. Brain dysfunction is a main Hypernatremia’s symptom.
Severe Hypernatremia may cause seizures, confusion, muscle twitching, and death. The treatment of Hypernatremia consists of replacing water. In most mild cases, fluids are given intravenously. Blood test is done every several hours to help to define when enough amount of fluid is given. The sodium concentration in the blood is lowered gradually, because treating such condition too quickly may result in permanent damage of brain. A doctor can order additional urine or blood test to find out why the concentration of sodium is high.
Once the underlying causes are discovered, the treatment may become more certain. For instance, if a patient has diabetes insipidus, doctor may prescribe Vasopressin (antidiuretic hormone).