Electrolyte is a scientific term used for various salts or minerals present in our body. These essential minerals are necessary for performing various critical tasks such as conduction of nerve impulses, muscle contractions etc. Chemically they are inorganic ions and carry electrical charge. They are present in blood, urine, plasma, and other body fluids and in the tissues.
The essential electrolytes present in our body are sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, phosphate, bicarbonate, and sulfate. These elements are naturally found in food and drinks that we consume. Electrolyte imbalance occurs due to deficiency or excess of these minerals in the body.For example excess of sodium leads to hypernatremia, or decrease of sodium in the body leads to hyponatremia.
Electrolyte Imbalance Risk Factors
Due to fluctuations in the body fluid, there is a constant change in electrolyte concentration. If you are sweating too heavily after an exercise or if there is fluid loss due to diarrhea and vomiting an imbalance of salts can occur. Several reasons are responsible for electrolyte imbalance.
- Acute or chronic Diarrhea.
- Uncontrolled diabetes.
- Addison’s disease.
- Heat exhaustion.
- Elderly people who take a diet inadequate in potassium.
- Diseases of kidney.
- Cushing’s syndrome.
- Certain medications such as diuretics.
- Loss of body fluids leading to dehydration.
- Excessive alcohol consumption.
- High fever.
Symptoms Of Electrolyte Imbalance
Most symptoms of electrolyte imbalance accompany other symptoms of the underlying disease. But the prominent are;
- Extreme weakness.
- Loss of skin elasticity.
- Dryness of skin.
- Reduced intraocular pressure.
- Dry tongue and mouth.
- Decrease in urine output.
- Fast pulse.
- Skin and limbs become pale.
- Muscle cramps, especially in the calf muscles.
- Change in urine color from light yellow to dark yellow or brown.
- Hallucinations, confusion, delirium.
- Low blood pressure.
- Problem in co-ordination.
- Stiffness of joints.
Electrolyte Imbalance Treatment
To fix electrolyte imbalance in its early stage, it is important to have knowledge regarding the symptoms of electrolyte imbalance. Treating electrolyte imbalance early reduces chances of possible complications. Complete medical history, clinical examination and blood tests are useful tools for diagnosing electrolyte imbalance.
Treatment of electrolyte imbalance may vary from person to person. It may depend on the severity of the condition. If there is minor electrolyte imbalance and the person is able to take food and fluids orally, the doctor may suggest oral intake of electrolyte. For example he may advise the patient to increase the intake of sodium containing food if there is sodium depletion. Such foods include carrots, beets, milk, eggs, and celery. He may also advice to take lemon juice mixed with salt. If sodium or other electrolyte imbalance causes severe symptoms, the patient may require immediate administration of intravenous replacement.
Persons should consume sports drinks or electrolyte drinks after they finish their sports. The same is true when there is too much of heat and person feels tired as a result of heat exhaustion.