Sodium is a mineral present in the body that has benefits, including maintaining the proper fluid balance in the body and the acid-base level in the body, regulating blood pressure and assisting in nerve conduction. While sodium is an important mineral, it can have adverse effects on the body when present in higher or lower than normal levels. The kidneys are responsible for regulating sodium levels in the blood and can be affected by sodium levels in the body. A simple blood test is all that is required to test for sodium levels in the body.
Blood sodium levels are measured in terms of millequivalents per liter or (mEq/L). The normal range for blood sodium is 135 to 145 mEq/L, according to Medline Plus.
Low Sodium Levels
A physician will often begin to monitor blood sodium levels when they drop lower than the 120 mEq/L range. While some adults can function sufficiently at these levels, many may have symptoms such as fatigue, lethargy, confusion, muscle cramps and nausea. If levels dip below 110 mEq/L, a seizure can result.
Slightly low sodium levels can be due to excessive sweating, a burn injury or the use of diuretics. Drinking large amounts of water can also lower sodium levels in the blood. Extremely low sodium levels are often connected with an underlying condition such as heart failure, cirrhosis or kidney disease. Some types of cancers also have been associated with low sodium levels, including lung and brain cancers.
High Sodium Levels
Levels that exceed 150 mEq/L are considered elevated levels of sodium in the blood, a condition known as hypernatremia. This can cause a number of complications, beginning with swelling and proceeding to thirst, agitation, restlessness and irrational behavior. If sodium levels reach an extremely high level, a person may experience convulsions or a coma.
High sodium levels can be caused by several conditions, such as diabetes or hormonal imbalances, such as a lack of vasopressin. If a person has high salt intake with no water to balance the sodium, he may develop Cushing syndrome or diabetes insipidus, which is a result of a too small an amount of diuretic hormone.