Electrolyte Imbalance

Overview of Electrolyte Imbalance

An electrolyte imbalance is a condition in which the level of bodily electrolytes is either elevated or depleted. Electrolyte balance is essential for the proper functioning of the body.

Signs and Symptoms of Electrolyte Imbalance

Electrolytes are naturally occurring elements in the body that control important bodily functions.

These electrolytes include:

  • Calcium
  • Chloride
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphate
  • Potassium
  • Sodium

These electrolytes are an essential part of the blood, bodily fluids, and urine. They can be ingested with food, drinks, and supplements.
An electrolyte imbalance (الیکٹرولائٹ عدم توازن/Electrolyte Adam Tawazan) is a condition in which level of bodily electrolytes is either elevated or depleted. Electrolyte balance is essential for the proper functioning of the body.

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Types of Electrolyte Imbalance

Electrolyte disorders in mild forms are often asymptomatic. They remain unnoticed until discovered in routine blood tests. Symptoms generally appear if a particular condition becomes severe.

Some common signs and symptoms of electrolyte imbalance are:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Fast heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea or constipation
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Muscle cramping
  • Muscle weakness
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Headaches
  • Numbness and tingling

Causes of Electrolyte Imbalance

Electrolyte imbalance can cause the following conditions:

  • Calcium: hypercalcemia and hypocalcemia
  • Chloride: hyperchloremia and hypochloremia
  • Magnesium: hypermagnesemia and hypomagnesemia
  • Phosphate: hyperphosphatemia or hypophosphatemia
  • Potassium: hyperkalemia and hypokalemia
  • Sodium: hypernatremia and hyponatremia

Hyper-indicates elevated level, Hypo-indicates lower level

1. Calcium

Calcium is essential to maintain the body’s blood pressure and muscle contractions. It is also an important component of bones and teeth.
Causes of hypercalcemia and hypocalcemia include:

  • Causes of Hypercalcemia

Hypercalcemia is a condition in which too much calcium is accumulated in the blood. This can be caused by:

  • Kidney disease
  • Thyroid disorders such as hyperparathyroidism
  • Lung problems, including tuberculosis or sarcoidosis
  • Lung and breast cancers
  • Drugs such as lithium, theophylline, or certain diuretics
  • Use of antacids calcium or vitamin D supplements in abundance
  • Causes of Hypocalcemia

Hypocalcemia occurs due to the depletion of calcium in the bloodstream. Possible causes include:

  • Kidney failure
  • Hypoparathyroidism
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Pancreatitis
  • Prostate cancer
  • Malabsorption
  • Certain medications, including heparin, osteoporosis drugs, and antiepileptic drugs

2. Chloride

Chloride is essential for the maintenance of bodily fluids. The causes of hyperchloremia and hypochloremia include:

Causes of Hyperchloremia

Hyperchloremia occurs as a result of excessive chloride in the body. Possible causes include:

  • Severe dehydration
  • Kidney failure
  • Dialysis

Causes of Hypochloremia

Hypochloremia develops due to the depletion of chloride in the body. Possible causes are:

  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa
  • Scorpion stings
  • Acute kidney failure

3. Magnesium

Magnesium plays important role in the regulation of the following functions:

  • Muscle contraction
  • Heart rhythm
  • Nerve function

Hypermagnesemia develops due to excessive amounts of magnesium. This problem affects people with Addison’s disease and end-stage kidney problems.
Hypomagnesemia is the depletion of magnesium in the body. Possible causes include:

  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Malnutrition
  • Malabsorption
  • Chronic diarrhoea
  • Excessive sweating
  • Heart failure
  • Certain medications, including some diuretics and antibiotic

4. Phosphate

The kidneys, bones, and intestines maintain the level of phosphate in the body. Causes of hyperphosphatemia and hypophosphatemia include:

  • Causes of Hyperphosphatemia

Possible causes of hyperphosphatemia may include:

  • Low calcium levels
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Severe breathing difficulties
  • Underactive parathyroid glands
  • Severe muscle injury
  • Tumour lysis syndrome, a complication of cancer treatment
  • Excessive use of phosphate-containing laxatives

Causes of Hypophosphatemia

Possible causes of hypophosphatemia may include:

  • Acute alcohol abuse
  • Severe burns
  • Starvation
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Overactive parathyroid glands
  • Certain medications, such as intravenous (IV) iron treatment, niacin (Niacor, Niaspan), and some antacids
  • Potassium

Potassium is primarily required for the maintenance of heart function. It also regulates the function of nerves and muscles.

Causes of Hyperkalemia

Hyperkalemia occurs due to elevated levels of potassium. It is usually triggered by:

  • Severe dehydration
  • Kidney failure
  • Severe acidosis, including diabetic ketoacidosis
  • Certain medications, including some blood pressure medications and diuretics
  • Adrenal insufficiency, which is when your cortisol levels are too low
  • Causes of Hypokalemia

Hypokalemia is the depletion of potassium. Possible causes may include:

  • Eating disorders
  • Dehydration
  • Severe vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Certain medications, including laxatives, diuretics, and corticosteroids

6. Sodium

Sodium maintains the bodily fluid balance. It also regulates nerve function and muscle contraction. The causes of hypernatremia and hyponatremia include:

Causes of Hypernatremia

Hypernatremia occurs due to the elevation of sodium in the bloodstream. It can be due to:

  • Inadequate water consumption
  • Severe dehydration
  • Excessive loss of bodily fluids as a result of prolonged vomiting, diarrhoea, sweating, or respiratory illness
  • Certain medications, including corticosteroids

Causes of Hyponatremia

Hyponatremia develops due to the depletion of sodium. Its common causes include:

  • Excessive fluid loss through the skin from sweating or burns
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Poor nutrition
  • Certain medications, such as diuretics and seizure medications
  • Thyroid and adrenal disorders
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Overhydration
  • Liver, heart, or kidney failure
  • Syndrome of inappropriate secretion of antidiuretic hormone (SIADH)
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Prevention

There are some conditions that increase the electrolyte imbalance such as:

  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Cirrhosis
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Kidney disease
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Eating problems, such as anorexia and bulimia
  • Adrenal gland issues
  • Trauma, including severe burns or broken bones
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Diagnosis

Follow these guidelines for maintaining good hydration and electrolyte balance during activity.

  • Drink a sports drink if your sporting event or workout lasts more than 30 minutes.
  • Drink whenever you are thirsty. Don't feel you must replenish fluids constantly.
  • Visit your doctor immediately when you feel weak.

Treatment of Electrolyte Imbalance | When to Consult a Doctor

A general blood test can estimate the electrolyte level in the body. Blood tests for kidney functions are also helpful.
Some additional tests can be performed to confirm the diagnosis such as:

  • Pinch test for hypernatremia
  • Reflexes test
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)-detects the irregular heartbeat due to electrolyte imbalance

Doctors to treat Electrolyte Imbalance

Last updated on Friday 21/10/2022

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