A sodium test checks how much sodium is in the blood. Sodium is both an electrolyte and mineral. It helps keep the water (the amount of fluid inside and outside the body's cells) and electrolyte balance of the body. Sodium is also important in how nerves and muscles work.
Most of the sodium in the body is found in blood and lymph fluid. Sodium levels in the body are partly controlled by a hormone called aldosterone, which is made by the adrenal glands. Aldosterone levels tell the kidneys when to hold sodium in the body instead of passing it in the urine. Small amounts of sodium are also lost through the skin when you sweat.
Most foods have sodium naturally in them or as an ingredient in cooking. Sodium is found in table salt as sodium chloride and in baking soda as sodium bicarbonate. Many medicines and other products also have sodium in them, including laxatives, aspirin, mouthwash, and toothpaste.
Low sodium levels have many causes, such as heart failure, malnutrition, and diarrhea.
Other electrolytes, such as potassium, calcium, chloride, magnesium, and phosphate, may be checked in a blood sample at the same time as a blood test for sodium.
Why It Is Done
A sodium blood test is done to:
- Check the water and electrolyte balance of the body.
- Find the cause of symptoms from low or high levels of sodium.
- Check on the progress of diseases of the kidneys or adrenal glands.
How To Prepare
In general, there's nothing you have to do before this test, unless your doctor tells you to.
How It Is Done
A health professional uses a needle to take a blood sample, usually from the arm.
How long the test takes
The test will take a few minutes.
How It Feels
When a blood sample is taken, you may feel nothing at all from the needle. Or you might feel a quick sting or pinch.
There is very little chance of having a problem from this test. When a blood sample is taken, a small bruise may form at the site.
Each lab has a different range for what's normal. Your lab report should show the range that your lab uses for each test. The normal range is just a guide. Your doctor will also look at your results based on your age, health, and other factors. A value that isn't in the normal range may still be normal for you.
Many conditions can affect sodium levels. Your doctor will talk with you about any abnormal results that may be related to your symptoms and past health.
- High sodium levels (hypernatremia) can be caused by a high-sodium diet or by not drinking enough water and being dehydrated. Dehydration may also be caused by medicines (such as diuretics), severe vomiting or diarrhea, Cushing's syndrome, kidney disease or injury, or a condition called diabetes insipidus that makes it hard to balance the water level in the body.
- High sodium levels can also be caused by high levels of the hormone aldosterone (hyperaldosteronism).
- Low sodium levels (hyponatremia) can be caused by a lot of sweating, severe vomiting or diarrhea, drinking too much water (psychogenic polydipsia), or poor nutrition.
- Low sodium levels can also be caused by underactive adrenal glands or thyroid gland, heart failure, kidney disease, cirrhosis, cystic fibrosis, or SIADH (syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion).