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Electrolyte Imbalance

Electrolytes are minerals in your body that have an electric charge and carry nerve (electrical) impulses.

Common Signs & Symptoms

  • Dizziness and Fatigue
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Trembling
  • Cramp and chest pain
  • Constipation
  • Dark urine and decreased urine output
  • Dry mouth and foul breath
  • Dry skin
  • Lack of perspiration
  • Muscle weakness
  • Stiff or aching joints
  • Swelling in the ankles, feet, legs and hands

Description

Electrolytes are minerals in your body that have an electric charge and carry nerve (electrical) impulses. They are in your blood, urine and body fluids. Maintaining the right balance of electrolytes helps your body to function properly- you need to have the correct blood chemistry to enable your muscles, nerves and other systems to work to work properly.

Sodium, calcium, potassium, chlorine, phosphate and magnesium are all electrolytes. You get them from the foods you eat and the fluids you drink. Levels of electrolytes in your body can become too low or too high and this can happen when the amount of water in your body changes, examples include:

This can happen with:

  • Some medicines
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Sweating heavily
  • Kidney problems - Kidneys work to keep your electrolyte chemistry normal, but during exercise for example you can lose sodium and potassium through sweat. If these are not replaced, your muscle will tighten but can't relax, which can lead to problems like Cramp. Although most cramps occur in leg muscles, other muscle tissue can be affected such as the bladder, the stomach or the heart.

Advice & Treatment

If you suspect you are suffering from electrolyte imbalance, see your GP. Treatment depends on which mineral(s) is out of balance. Electrolyte balance is necessary for stimulating the thirst mechanism when your body gets dehydrated and in some cases, imbalances can cause severe and sometimes life-threatening dehydration. Seek immediate medical care if you, or someone you are with, have any of these life-threatening symptoms including:

  • Change in mental status or sudden behavior change such as confusion, delirium, lethargy, hallucinations or delusions
  • Rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Sunken eyes
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