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Sodium - blood

Definition

Sodium is a substance that the body needs to work properly. Sodium is found in most foods. The most common form of sodium is sodium chloride, which is table salt.

A test can be done to see how much sodium is in your blood.

Alternative Names

Serum sodium

How the test is performed

A blood sample is needed. For information on how this is done, see: Venipuncture

How to prepare for the test

Many medicines can interfere with sodium blood test results.  Your health care provider will tell you if you need to stop taking any medicines before you have this test. Do not stop or change your medications without talking to your doctor first.

How the test will feel

When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain, while others feel only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.

Why the test is performed

This test is often done as part of an electrolyte or basic metabolic panel blood test.

Your blood sodium level represents a balance between the sodium and water in the food and drinks you consume and the amount in urine. A small amount is lost through stool and sweat.

Many things can affect this balance. Your doctor may order this test if you:

  • Have had a recent injury, surgery, or serious illness
  • Consume large or small amounts of salt or fluid
  • Receive intravenous (IV) fluids
  • Take diuretics (water pills) or certain other medications, including the hormone aldosterone

Normal Values

The normal range for blood sodium levels is 135 to 145 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L).

The examples above are common measurements for results of these tests. Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Some labs use different measurements or test different samples. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.

What abnormal results mean

Abnormal sodium levels can be due to many different conditions.

A higher than normal sodium level is called hypernatremia. It may be due to:

  • Cushing syndrome
  • Diabetes insipidus
  • Hyperaldosteronism
  • Increased fluid loss due to excessive sweating, diarrhea, use of diuretics, or burns
  • Too much salt or sodium bicarbonate in your diet
  • Use of certain medicines, including birth control pills, corticosteroids, laxatives, lithium, and NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or naproxen

A lower than normal sodium level is called hyponatremia. This may be due to:

  •  Addison's disease
  • Dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea
  • An increase in total body water seen in those with heart failure, certain kidney diseases, or cirrhosis of the liver
  • Ketonuria
  • SIADH
  • Too much of the hormone vasopressin
  • Use of medications such as diuretics (water pills), morphine, and SSRI antidepressants

The following conditions may also affect your blood sodium level:

What the risks are

There is very little risk involved with having your blood taken. Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another and from one side of the body to the other. Taking blood from some people may be more difficult than from others.

Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight but may include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fainting or feeling light-headed
  • Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
  • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)

References

Shorecki K, Ausiello D. Disorders of sodium and water homeostasis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 118.


Review Date: 11/17/2011
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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