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 (about 85%) 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 or 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 are uncommon and are most often caused by 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 blood test to check sodium levels 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 the progress of diseases of the kidneys or adrenal glands.
How To Prepare
You do not need to do anything before having this test.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).
How It Is Done
The health professional drawing blood will:
- Wrap an elastic band around your upper arm to stop the flow of blood. This makes the veins below the band larger so it is easier to put a needle into the vein.
- Clean the needle site with alcohol.
- Put the needle into the vein. More than one needle stick may be needed.
- Attach a tube to the needle to fill it with blood.
- Remove the band from your arm when enough blood is collected.
- Put a gauze pad or cotton ball over the needle site as the needle is removed.
- Put pressure to the site and then a bandage.