What is electrolyte imbalance?

Electrolytes are essential minerals in your body that are necessary for nerve and muscle function, the body-fluid balance, and other critical processes. They are particles that can carry an electrical charge and are present in your blood, plasma, urine, and other fluids. Electrolytes exist in the form of calcium, chlorine, magnesium, phosphate, potassium, and sodium that can be obtained from fluids, supplements, and foods. For example, bananas are excellent sources of potassium.

Electrolyte Imbalance Spotlight

The balance of electrolytes is constantly shifting due to fluctuating fluid levels in your body. For example, when you sweat as a result of exercise, hot weather, or illness, some electrolyte levels may be low. Vomiting and diarrhea are other causes of electrolyte imbalances, as they result in excessive fluid loss. You must replenish these fluids and electrolytes in order to prevent dehydration, a potentially life-threatening condition.

Electrolyte imbalances can be caused by a deficiency or an overabundance of minerals in the body. For example, hyperkalemia and hypercalcemia are indicative of excess amounts of potassium and calcium, respectively, which can disrupt the overall balance and functioning of the nerves, cardiovascular system, and muscles.

Vomiting and diarrhea, excessive heat, and severe illness are causes of electrolyte imbalance that can lead to dehydration. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as low blood pressure, tachycardia (rapid heart rate), sunken eyes, confusion or loss of consciousness for even a brief moment, and poor skin elasticity.

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with electrolyte imbalance?

Electrolyte imbalances may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the digestive tract may also involve other body systems.

General symptoms that may occur along with electrolyte imbalance

Electrolyte imbalance may accompany other symptoms affecting your general health including: Read more about electrolyte imbalancesymptoms

CAUSES

What causes electrolyte imbalance?

The balance of electrolytes is constantly shifting due to fluctuating fluids in your body. For example, when you sweat as a result of exercise, hot weather, or illness, levels of certain electrolytes may be low. Vomiting and diarrhea are other causes of electrolyte imbalances, as they result in excessive fluid loss.

Electrolyte imbalances can also be caused by a deficiency or an o... Read more about electrolyte imbalancecauses

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 1, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Metabolic System