Electrolyte Imbalance

Also known as: electrolyte disorders.

What are electrolytes, and what are they for?

Electrolytes are minerals that are found in the body and are essential to vital bodily functions, including the muscles, the acidity of blood, the function of the nervous system and many others. Common electrolytes include sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride and others.

When you sweat, your body loses electrolytes. These can be replaced through a nutritious diet, as well as sports drinks that contain electrolytes. Electrolytes are maintained in the body within a narrow range and are essential to the metabolic activities of all cells. When these electrolytes are out of balance (either too high or too low) they cause problems in many organs or systems.

What is electrolyte imbalance?

If the levels of certain electrolytes in the body become too high or too low, this can cause an electrolyte imbalance. This may be a sign that you are not properly replenishing lost electrolytes through diet or nutrition, or it may be a sign of a greater underlying health condition, such as kidney disease.

Having electrolytes out of balance can cause problems throughout the body, including with the muscles, bodily fluids, the heart’s rhythm and the function of the nervous system. In most cases, electrolyte balance can be maintained through a nutritious, well-balanced diet. However, people who exercise intensely can help maintain their electrolyte balance through sports drinks and other sports products that are designed to replenish the body’s electrolytes.

What causes electrolyte imbalance?

Electrolyte imbalances have many causes. Dehydration, fever, other diseases like liver or kidney problems, some medications, vomiting, diarrhea are a few of the many causes of electrolyte imbalance.

What are the symptoms of electrolyte imbalance?

Symptoms can vary widely based on the type of electrolyte imbalance that is present. Some possible symptoms include:

What are electrolyte imbalance care options?

Treatment for electrolyte imbalance will vary depending on the type of abnormality(s) and severity.

Treating symptoms and increasing or decreasing the particular electrolyte(s) abnormality by supplement, or removal by medication, oral/intravenous fluids, or dialysis are all treatment options available.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: December 15, 2023 05:14 PM


The Division of Nephrology at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital treats kidney disorders and provides comprehensive evaluation of renal functions, including kidney biopsies.

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