Hypernatremia—Adult
En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition
Hypernatremia is when there is too much sodium in the body. It may be serious and requires care from your doctor.

Causes
Hypernatremia happens when there is an imbalance in the amount of water and sodium in the body—too little water, too much sodium.

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
Factors that may increase your chance of hypernatremia include:

  • Not getting enough fluids or the correct fluids
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Using certain diuretics—medications that increase urination
  • Severe burns
  • Losing too much fluid
  • Increased age
  • Having certain medical conditions such as diabetes or kidney disorder
Symptoms
Hypernatremia may cause:

  • Being thirsty
  • Dry mouth
  • Muscle weakness or muscle cramps
  • Decreased urination
  • Weight loss
  • Lightheadedness
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Muscle twitching
Untreated hypernatremia can be fatal.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is a symptom of hypernatremia.
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Diagnosis
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. You will be asked about your fluid intake and urine output. A physical exam will be done.

Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
Treatment
Fluid Replacement
Liquids can be given by mouth or IV to balance the fluids in your body. 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.

You may also be given medication to treat nausea.

Prevention
To help reduce your chance of getting hypernatremia:

  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of the fluids
  • Work with your doctor to manage any health conditions



RESOURCES:
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

The College of Family Physicians of Canada

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

Chassagne P, Druesne L, et al. Clinical presentation of hypernatremia in elderly patients: a case control study. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2006;54(8):1225-1230.

Dehydration and hypovolemia in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 18, 2013. Accessed February 26, 2014.

Hypernatremia. The Merck Manual Professional Edition website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/endocrine_and_metabolic_disorders/electrolyte_disorders/hypernatremia.html. Updated March 2013. Accessed February 26, 2014.

Stuart W, Smellie A, et al. Hyponatraemia and hypernatraemia: Pitfalls in testing. BMJ. 2007; 334(7591): 473-476.

Last Reviewed November 2014



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