Water, like any other substance, can harm you if you drink too much. Hyponatremia, otherwise known as water intoxication, occurs when there is a lower-than-normal concentration of sodium in the blood, usually due to excessive water intake.
Symptoms of Water Intoxication
When water washes away sodium in the blood, cells swell up with the excess water because they have no way of regulating how much they take in. After all, the sodium that was creating the barrier is now greatly diminished. While most cells in the body can handle this accordingly, brain cells cannot, and that is what causes many of the symptoms of hyponatremia. These symptoms should be monitored carefully in anyone who is very active (runners or other athletes), is being treated with chemotherapy, has liver or kidney problems such as cirrhosis or kidney disease, and people who suffer from heart failure:
Fatigue, lethargy, muscle weakness and/or spasms
Loss of Appetite
Loss of consciousness
Confusion is caused by the imbalance of sodium levels in the brain. Low sodium levels also result in nausea, fatigue, lethargy, muscle weakness and spasms, as well as coma if hyponatremia goes untreated. Marathon runners or other athletes are much more likely to contract hyponatremia than the average person, and should make sure their sodium intake is level with their water intake.
Causes of Hyponatremia (Water Intoxication)
Some causes of hyponatremia include receiving too many intravenous fluids (e.g. patients hooked up to an I.V. could suffer from water intoxication), running a marathon, being given chemotherapy for the treatment of specific types of cancer, eating poorly, or drinking too much alcohol or beer. Vomiting and diarrhea, if excessive, can also induce hyponatremia. Hyponatremia is more likely to occur in people who have kidney problems, as well as other dysfunctions or diseases; however, it can occur in anyone who drinks too much water.
“Hyponatremia.” Penn State Hershey. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Aug. 2010. http://www.hmc.psu.edu/healthinfo/h/hyponatremia.htm.
“Hyponatremia: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Aug. 2010. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000394.htm.