Hyperglycemia refers to high blood sugar, while hyponatremia means low blood sodium. Although very different, these two conditions can affect each other.

According to a 2022 research review, hyponatremia affects approximately 5% of adults in the general population and 35% of people who are hospitalized.

You may experience hyponatremia for various reasons, and there is an established link between this condition and hyperglycemia.

If you’re unfamiliar with these conditions, you may be interested to know what they are, how they differ, and what links these two conditions.

Hyponatremia means a person has too little sodium in their blood.

Hyponatremia is the most common electrolyte disorder. It’s defined by a serum sodium level of under 135 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L). Standard sodium levels are between 135 and 145 mEq/L.

Hyponatremia results from an imbalance of the water and salt in your body. Water retention is the most common cause of hyponatremia.

Doctors can use a blood test to check for abnormal sodium levels. Then, a urine test can be performed to get a better idea of the cause of low sodium levels.

Low sodium levels can impact muscle and nerve function. Normal sodium levels are also important to maintain stable blood pressure.

Hyperglycemia refers to high blood sugar. High blood sugar is defined as blood glucose greater than 125 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) while fasting and greater than 180 mg/dL 2 hours after eating a meal.

Blood sugar ranges between 70 and 100 mg/dL while fasting. If a person has two or more blood glucose tests performed in a fasting state at or above 126 mg/dL, a doctor may diagnose diabetes.

Dietary factors and a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to hyperglycemia. People with a family history of type 2 diabetes have a greater risk of hyperglycemia.

Additionally, people with elevated blood pressure and more lipids than average in their blood may be more likely to experience hyperglycemia.

Hyponatremia and hyperglycemia are two different conditions. People may experience different symptoms and potential long-term complications from each condition.

Hyponatremia symptoms can include:

  • weakness
  • fatigue
  • irritability
  • confusion
  • headache
  • nausea, vomiting, or both

Extreme hyponatremia is a medical emergency. Symptoms can include:

Alternatively, hyperglycemia may be a sign of diabetes. Some common symptoms of hyperglycemia can include:

  • excessive thirst
  • excessive urination
  • blurry vision
  • fatigue
  • sores that won’t heal

Long-term effects of hyperglycemia can include:

Both hyponatremia and hyperglycemia may not have noticeable symptoms right away.

You may not experience symptoms of hyperglycemia unless glucose levels have been high for an extended period. On the other hand, if sodium levels fall slowly, symptoms of hyponatremia may be slow to develop.

Hyponatremia and hyperglycemia can have a significant impact on each other.

How hyperglycemia impacts sodium levels

Hyperglycemia frequently causes a decrease in serum sodium concentration. This is because hyperglycemia is restricted to the extracellular space, or outside the cell.

Pressure from hyperglycemia causes water to shift from the intracellular space, or inside the cell, to the extracellular along the osmotic gradient, diluting the amount of sodium.

People with hyperglycemia may also experience an increase in urination that can cause sodium to be eliminated at a faster rate.

How sodium levels impact blood sugars

While sodium levels do not have a direct impact on blood sugars, limiting salt intake is an important part of diabetes management.

Limiting salt is important because high amounts of sodium can raise blood pressure and increase the likelihood of heart disease.

High sodium levels can also damage the kidneys. This is especially concerning for people with diabetes since they already have an elevated risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease due to higher blood glucose levels.

Intravenous (IV) fluids can safely help correct sodium levels if you have hyperglycemia.

Doctors test the amount of sodium in your blood and use formulas to determine the correct amount of serum sodium to include in the IV fluids.

According to a 2019 scientific report, the most common sodium level correction method for people with hyperglycemia is to increase the sodium concentration by 1.6 millimoles per liter (mmol/L) for every 100-mg/dL increase in blood sugar concentration above 100 mg/dL.

If you ever experience severe symptoms of hyponatremia or hyperglycemia, get immediate medical help.

Low sodium and high blood sugar levels can go hand in hand. Talk with your doctor and potentially get your blood tested if you notice signs of either condition to help prevent more serious complications.