Electrolyte Imbalance

Electrolytes are ionized materials found naturally in the body that help to regulate nerve and muscle function, fluid levels and help maintain proper acid or pH levels in the body. Common electrolytes include sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and chloride.

Causes of Electrolyte Imbalance

Healthy kidneys regulate the electrolytes within the body by filtering them from the blood and excreting any excess through the urine. However, when the kidneys do not function properly, an imbalance may occur. Electrolyte imbalance also may be the result of:

  • Poor diet
  • Dehydration
  • Chronic diarrhea or vomiting
  • Kidney or liver disorders
  • Certain medication
  • Excessive amounts of fluids
  • Anorexia or bulimia

Symptoms of Electrolyte Imbalance

Symptoms of electrolyte imbalance may vary depending on the type and severity of the disorder, but often include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Confusion

Treatment of Electrolyte Imbalance

Treatment for electrolyte imbalance may vary depending on the type and underlying cause of the condition. It may include identifying and providing specific electrolyte replacement through:

  • Dietary changes
  • Stopping certain medications
  • Electrolyte replacement therapy

If needed, electrolyte replacement therapy can be administered either orally or intravenously. In severe cases, hemodialysis may also be used to treat the underlying electrolyte disorder, particularly in patients with impaired kidney function. A doctor will determine which type of treatment is most appropriate for each individual condition.

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