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Hypernatremia: Understanding Dehydration & Electrolyte Imbalance

The high heat index of our region can make it difficult to stay properly hydrated and it’s easy to fall behind in water intake, but when dehydration becomes a problem, several things can go wrong in the body, including elevated levels of sodium, known as hypernatremia.

A delicate balance of minerals in the bloodstream – primarily sodium and potassium – regulates the fluid levels of your body. When dehydration occurs, sodium becomes elevated, throwing off the electrolyte balance.

“Usually, replenishing your electrolytes can reverse the negative effects,” said Advance ER physician Dr. Alex Lee. “However, when the condition has gone too far, medical intervention is crucial.”

Common Causes of Hypernatremia:

  •     Excessive sweating
  •     Diarrhea
  •     Diuretics with insufficient water intake
  •     Diabetes insipidus
  •     Decreased thirst sensation
  •     Inaccessibility of water
  •     Excessively large intake of salt
  •     Disease of the hypothalamus, pituitary gland or kidney

“The elderly, infants and patients confined to their beds are at highest risk for serious dehydration. Being dependent on others to bring them water, becoming overheated and losing a lot of fluids are some possible contributing factors,” said Dr. Lee. “From there, it’s a short step to electrolyte imbalance which, if left unchecked, can quickly become serious.”

Symptoms of Dehydration & Hypernatremia:

  •     Fatigue
  •     Extreme thirst
  •     Dry mouth
  •     Dry, wrinkled skin
  •     Headache
  •     Dizziness
  •     Fever
  •     Nausea & vomiting
  •     Muscle cramps
  •     Weakness
  •     Lethargy
  •     Confusion
  •     Seizures
  •     Coma

What are the treatments for hypernatremia?

“The treatment for hypernatremia is pretty straight-forward,” said Dr. Lee. “We will work on restoring the balance of hydration and electrolytes, potentially with an IV. Of course, we’ll work on diagnosing the root cause to check for diabetes insipidus, kidney disease, pituitary disease or something that would need on-going maintenance. But usually, once the fluid balance is restored, the patient should improve very rapidly.”

Where can I get fast treatment for dehydration or hypernatremia?

Advance ER has two North Dallas locations that are open 24/7, every day of the year. You will receive top quality medical care from a board-certified physician, not an assistant. Specialists are on-call for additional consultation, as needed, at no additional office charge from the specialist.