A Taichung doctor said that drinking too much water without consuming a sufficient amount of sodium could lead to illness, citing a man who was hospitalized for three days.
A 64-year-old man surnamed Huang (黃) sought treatment after experiencing headaches, dizziness, muscle pain and discolored urine, Asia University Hospital physician Lin Hsuan-jen (林軒任) wrote in an article published in the Chinese-language Liberty Times (sister newspaper of the Taipei Times) yesterday.
Huang, who also has diabetes and high blood pressure, often drank large amounts of water to lower his stress levels, and had consumed eight liters on the day he experienced the symptoms, Lin said.
Huang was hospitalized for three days, during which he was treated with a high-sodium drip to bring his levels back to normal, Lin said.
“His blood tests when he first came in showed that his sodium ion level was at 108 millimoles per liter [mmol/L], well below the normal range of 135 to 145mmol/L, and his CPK [creatinine phosphokinase] was at 7,000 units,” Lin said.
CPK, a muscle cell enzyme that converts creatine, levels in a healthy person should be at about 300 units, he said, adding that Huang’s high CPK level was caused by rhabdomyolysis — the breakdown of damaged skeletal muscle.
Sodium is an electrolyte that is important for the body’s regulation of water content, and it assists with muscle function and the nervous system, Lin said, adding that Huang’s excessive water consumption diluted the electrolytes in his body.
Extremely low blood sodium levels can damage the central nervous system, leading to shock, brain damage or even death, he said.
Rhabdomyolysis is often caused by dehydration during heavy exercise, muscle injury, severe muscle inflammation, the use of certain medications or various metabolic diseases, he added.
Huang’s rhabdomyolysis was caused by a rapid drop in his sodium level, which also caused colloid osmotic pressure to fall rapidly, leading to swelling of muscle cells, Lin said, adding that it affected Huang’s blood flow, leading to muscle cell necrosis.
This, in turn, increases the muscle’s enzymes, overburdening the kidneys, which caused Huang’s discolored urine, Lin said.
People with low sodium levels should moderate their sodium intake, and not surpass 8 milliequivalents per liter per day, he said.
Supplementing too quickly could cause osmotic demyelination syndrome, which could cause difficulty with speaking or even unconsciousness, he said.
Lin said to avoid overconsumption of water and note urine color. If it is too light or transparent, then water intake might be too high, whereas dark-colored urine might be a sign of insufficient water consumption.
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