Electrolytes play crucial in many essential processes in your body. Electrolytes are necessary for our cells, organs and other body systems to work properly. Electrolytes are electrically energised minerals and compounds that play a major role in administering nervous impulses, muscles contractions, keeping you hydrated and also regulates the pH levels of your body. We generally get them from the food we eat and drink. The levels of electrolyte are measured in blood tests, and the levels should be in a small range, or serious problems might arise.
What Are Electrolytes?
Electrolytes are elements that occur naturally in your body. They control major physiologic functions in our body.
Some of the examples of electrolytes are:
These elements are present in your body are required for various bodily functions which are located in your blood, bodily fluids, and urine. They can be ingested through food, drinks, and other supplements.
- They regulate the levels of fluid in your body and the blood plasma.
- Maintains the pH (acid/alkaline) level of your blood
- Facilitates muscle contractions which includes your heartbeat.
- Transmit the nerve signals from your heart, muscle & nerve cells to other cells
- Help in blood clot
- Help to build new tissues
What are electrolyte imbalances?
The electrolytes balance changes constantly due to fluctuation of fluid levels in your body. When these levels of electrolytes in your body are too high or too low it leads to electrolyte disorders. Electrolytes should be maintained evenly for proper body functions. Otherwise, some vital body systems might get affected.
When you sweat excessively due to hot weather or illness or as a result of exercise, the electrolyte levels become low. Vomiting and diarrhoea can also lower your electrolyte levels due to excessive fluid loss. You must re-supply these fluids in order to prevent dehydration or a life-threatening condition. Severe imbalances of electrolytes can result in severe condition like coma, seizures, and cardiac arrest.
Based on the levels of electrolyte disorders they are classified into different types. Which includes:
- Hypercalcemia and hypocalcemia due to calcium imbalances
- Hyperchloremia and hypochloremia due to chloride imbalances
- Hypermagnesemia and hypomagnesemia due to magnesium imbalances
- Hyperphosphatemia or hypophosphatemia due to phosphate imbalances
- Hyperkalemia and hypokalemia due to potassium imbalances
- Hypernatremia and hyponatremia sodium imbalances
Signs & symptoms of electrolyte disorders
Mild electrolyte disorders might not cause any symptoms. Usually, symptoms start to develop when a particular disorder becomes severe. Not all electrolyte imbalances result in the same symptoms, but they may share similar signs.
- Irregular heartbeat such as tachycardia
- Nausea & vomiting
- Convulsions or seizures
- Diarrhoea or constipation
- Abdominal cramping
- Dry mouth and foul breath
- Lack of perspiration
- Muscle cramping
- Stiff or aching joints
- Muscle weakness
- Irritability & confusion
- Numbness and tingling
Call your doctor right away if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms and suspect you might have an electrolyte disorder. Electrolyte disturbances can become life-threatening if left untreated.
Treatment For Electrolyte Disorders
Electrolyte disorder treatment varies depending on the type of disorder and the underlying condition causing it. Generally, certain treatments can help to restore the balance of lost minerals in the body. These include:
Medications: Certain medication which includes calcium gluconate, magnesium chloride, and potassium chloride may be administered depending on the electrolyte disorder you have.
Intravenous (IV) fluids: Sodium chloride fluids can rehydrate the body in case of dehydration due to vomiting or diarrhoea. Electrolyte supplements can be given through these fluids to correct electrolyte deficiencies.
Oral medications & supplements: Depending on the electrolyte disorder supplements or supplements which include calcium, magnesium oxide, potassium chloride, phosphate binders might be suggested by your doctor.