Electrolyte Imbalance

Also known as: electrolyte disorders.

What is electrolyte imbalance?

Body fluids are composed of water and substances (minerals) dissolved in it (solutes) - these solutes when possessing an electrical charge are called electrolytes which may be positively charged (also known as cations like sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium) or negatively charged (or anions like chloride, bicarbonate and phosphate). These 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 organ or systems.

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 fatigue, lethargy, headaches, weakness, twitching, numbness, confusion, seizures, irregular heartbeat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, thirst, muscle cramps and many others.

What are electrolyte imbalance care options?

Treatment for electrolyte imbalance will vary depending on the type of abnormality(s) and its/their severity. Treating symptoms and increasing or decreasing the particular electrolyte(s) abnormality by supplement, or removal by medication and/or oral/intravenous fluids, and/or dialysis are all available.


Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 3/23/2018 2:18:24 PM

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