Sodium is an electrolyte the body needs to help regulate blood pressure and ensure muscle and nerve cells work properly. Normal blood sodium levels fall between 135 and 145 mEq/L. Conditions such as overhydration, burns, diarrhea and vomiting may cause sodium levels to drop below normal, a condition called hyponatremia. The decreased sodium levels in the blood cause fluid to move into tissue cells. Recognizing the symptoms of sodium deficiency is important because when left untreated, the condition may lead to death.
Some symptoms of low sodium include gastrointestinal distress. The condition may cause a decreased appetite, nausea and vomiting. If a person with low sodium levels experiences vomiting, the hyponatremia may continue to worsen.
Decreased sodium levels may cause altered mental status. Most of the tissues in the body can handle the expanding tissue cells caused by the hyponatremia, but the brain cannot compensate for the increased cell size. Brain dysfunction may occur because of the changes. Symptoms of this impairment include a headache, lethargy, fatigue and confusion. As the condition worsens, a person may experience irritability and hallucinations. A decreased level of consciousness, a coma and possibly death may also occur when blood sodium levels drop.
Low levels of sodium in the blood may cause symptoms involving muscles in the body. Symptoms include problems such as spasms or cramps. Muscles may experience fatigue easily when a person has low sodium levels. Muscular weakness and seizures are additional signs of a sodium deficiency.
Severity of Symptoms
The symptoms of low blood sodium levels may vary depending on the severity of the condition. A person with a slow decrease in sodium levels may not experience any symptoms, while a person with a rapid decrease in sodium levels may have severe symptoms, according to the American Association for Clinical Chemistry. Age may also play a role in the severity of symptoms associated with low sodium levels. Older individuals may experience more severe symptoms than a younger person with the same sodium levels. General health also plays a role in symptoms because an aged, chronically ill person tends to develop more severe symptoms than a healthy, young person, according to the Merck Manuals Online Medical Library. Without proper treatment to correct the imbalance, the symptoms of sodium deficiency will worsen.