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Dehydration and Sodium Levels

by
author image Ruben J. Nazario
Ruben J. Nazario has been a medical writer and editor since 2007. His work has appeared in national print and online publications. Nazario is a graduate of the University of Louisville School of Medicine, and is board-certified in pediatrics. He also has a Master of Arts in liberal studies from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Dehydration and Sodium Levels
Intravenous fluids may be necessary to treat dehydration. Photo Credit suero image by FRAN from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

Dehydration results from a deficit of water in the body. Water is one of the most important compounds in the body, necessary for the processes of energy generation and removal of waste products. When the body lacks enough water, dehydration ensues. This can then lead to metabolic abnormalities, including affected sodium levels.

Causes

Dehydration results from either increased fluid losses or decreased intake. According to the Merck Manual, vomiting, diarrhea and profuse sweating are some of the most common causes of dehydration. Other causes include excessive intake of diuretics, which are medicines that increase the excretion of fluid in the urine; burns; and conditions that increase the production of urine, like diabetes mellitus. The Merck Manual also mentions that the elderly and infants and young children are at particularly high risk of becoming dehydrated.

High Sodium and Dehydration

Hypernatremia, or high blood sodium, results from having too little water in the body. In other words, dehydration causes an increase in the level of sodium in the blood stream. The usual symptom of hypernatremia is the feeling of thirst. You may produce large quantities of clear urine if the cause is kidney disease. According to the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, hypernatremia can also affect your brain cells, resulting in confusion and fatigue, and eventually can result in coma and death.

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Low Sodium and Dehydration

Hyponatremia, or low blood sodium, can result from excessive losses of fluid and sodium from the body, or from dilution of sodium levels with excess fluid. Causes include burns, diarrhea, vomiting, heart failure and pancreatitis. The symptoms of hyponatremic dehydration include dry lips, nausea and muscle twitching. Seizures can occur, and the patient can fall into a coma.

Treatment

The treatment of dehydration includes the administration of fluids, either orally or intravenously. Care must be taken to correct the levels of sodium slowly, as rapid correction can cause sudden fluid shifts that can affect the brain, either by causing brain swelling or by breaking down myelin, the protective cover of the brain's cells. Either can cause permanent brain damage.

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References

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