You may think that sodium is a “bad guy” to be avoided or reduced at all cost, because too much is linked to high blood pressure.
But sodium is actually an essential electrolyte, and a deficiency can trigger seizures.
Seizures from low sodium levels are most likely to occur from a serious disease, acute infection or because you tried to run a marathon on a hot day.
One-time or isolated seizures from these causes don’t warrant a diagnosis of epilepsy.
However, epilepsy is sometimes misdiagnosed and you may have an underlying health condition that’s causing an electrolyte problem.
Although most epileptic seizures don’t seem to be caused by low levels of sodium, some might be and others may be made worse by lack of the electrolyte.
These electrolytes are essential for conducting electrical messages in your and throughout your body via nerves.
They’re also important for the flow of water into and out of all cells.
Low Sodium Levels
A chronically low level of sodium, negatively affects your brain and can trigger seizures, because it disrupts electrical activity and causes swelling.
It can be caused by severe lack of dietary salt, but it’s more often caused by profuse sweating, chronic diarrhea or excessive vomiting.
Other possible causes of dehydration include fever, abnormal kidney function, diabetes, head trauma or surgery involving the pituitary gland.
Also, imbalanced calcium and/or potassium levels, sickle cell disease, and use of drugs such as corticosteroids or diuretics.
Kidney disease or negative reactions to medications such as diuretics can trigger sodium levels.
And, Trileptal can reduce your blood-sodium levels over time!
So, it’s possible that epilepsy can begin as a condition unrelated to low sodium levels, but later aggravated and triggered by medication.
A sodium level in your blood that is too low is dangerous and can cause seizures and coma.
That’s because a lack of sodium causes your body’s blood volume to decrease.
This, in turn, will lead to a corresponding decrease in your blood pressure level.
Low blood pressure can also cause your heart rate to increase, as well as light headedness and sometimes shock.
Low blood sodium levels can also affect your brain, which is highly sensitive to changes in sodium levels.
Losing sodium quickly is a medical emergency. It can cause stupor, unconsciousness, seizures, coma and even death.
Unless the cause is obvious, a variety of tests are needed to determine if sodium was lost from your urine, diarrhea, or from vomiting.
High Sodium Levels
Very high sodium levels can lead to seizures and death.
Contrary to popular belief, the primary cause of high blood sodium levels is not consumption of too much salt, but dehydration (not enough water intake).
Lack of adequate water intake is a very common condition in the United States because most people don’t drink enough water each day, while also eating foods that are high in sodium.
The most common symptoms of high blood sodium levels are confusion, irritability, depression, fatigue, fluid retention, lack of coordination, muscle cramps or twitching. Also nausea, restlessness, and general weakness.
More serious symptoms of high sodium levels can include changes in blood pressure and heart rate, coma, seizures, and death.
The severity of the symptoms is related to how quickly your high sodium levels developed.
If your levels build up suddenly, your brain cells can’t adapt to their new high sodium environment.
Obviously, the key word here is balance. You don’t want your blood sodium levels to be too high or too low.
As a further precaution, you should have your physician check your blood sodium level as part of your annual physical exam.
Abnormal sodium levels are diagnosed by measuring the concentration of sodium in the blood.
Tests are used to determine hormone problems.
Your diet and use of diuretics must also be considered.
And a low sodium level can be just one manifestation of a variety of disorders.
While it can easily be corrected, the prognosis for the underlying condition that causes it varies.
Intravenous saline in a variety of concentrations may be used to correct the sodium deficit in your body.
The best bet is to go to your physician for a full blood panel.
Only then can you identify the condition and act to rectify it.
The simple step of monitoring your blood sodium level and adjusting your diet can make a big difference in your overall health — both immediately and in the long term.
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