Health Library

Hypernatremia—Adult

Pronounced: hahy-per-nuh-TREE-mee-uh

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

Risk factors 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

Symptoms may include:

  • Being thirsty
  • Dry mouth
  • Muscle weakness or muscle cramps
  • Decreased urination
  • Weight loss
  • Lightheadedness
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Muscle twitching

If left untreated, the condition may lead to death.

Dry Mouth

Dry Mouth and Throat

Dry mouth is a symptom of hypernatremia.

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

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, take these steps:

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

RESOURCES:

FamilyDoctor.org—American Academy of Family Physicians
http://familydoctor.org

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
http://www2.niddk.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

The College of Family Physicians of Canada
http://www.cfpc.ca

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

References:

Adrogué HJ, Madias NE. Hypernatremia. N Engl J Med. 2000 May 18; 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 Aug; 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 for Healthcare Professionals website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/sec13/ch167/ch167b.html#v1149497. Updated March 2013. Accessed February 26, 2014.

Stuart W, Smellie A, et al. Hyponatraemia and hypernatraemia: pitfalls in testing. BMJ. 2007 March 3; 334(7591): 473-476.



Last reviewed February 2014 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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