Recognizing and Treating an Electrolyte Imbalance

Posted by: Tampa Cardio

On: May 29, 2015

What are electrolytes?
Electrolytes are minerals found in the body that are essential to proper muscle, nerve, and brain function. These minerals must be kept well balanced, as too little or too much of any one mineral can detrimentally impact some of the body’s most vital systems. While a certain amount of electrolytes can be found naturally in the body – in blood, urine, and other bodily fluids – human beings depend on receiving most of their electrolytes from their diets – through either food, beverages, medications, or supplements.

Some of the most important and well known electrolytes include:

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

What causes an electrolyte imbalance?
The electrolytes in your body are in an almost constant state of fluctuation as you carry out your daily activities. Any time fluids leave your body – either through sweat, urination, bowel movements, or vomit – vital electrolytes are leaving along with them. Any instance where more fluids are leaving your body than is normal – during exercise, hot weather, or severe illness, for instance – you are at risk for dehydration, a condition which is often present hand in hand with electrolyte imbalances. In addition, certain other medical conditions or behaviors can result in electrolyte imbalances as well, such as alcoholism, eating disorders, kidney disease, diabetes, congestive heart failure, thyroid disorders, and severe injury or trauma.

What are the symptoms of an electrolyte imbalance?
Symptoms of an electrolyte imbalance can vary depending on which electrolyte specifically is out of balance, however, there are a few common symptoms that are generally shared amongst all of them:

  • darkened urine
  • a heartbeat that is too fast or too slow
  • fatigue or lethargy
  • seizures and spasms
  • nausea with or without vomiting
  • constipation or diarrhea
  • abdominal cramping
  • muscle weakness or pain
  • mood changes
  • headaches

Some mild electrolyte disorders will show no symptoms at all, and are usually only detected on accident during routine blood tests to check on other conditions. If you ever experience more severe symptoms or signs that you dehydrated, such as low blood pressure, poor skin elasticity, confusion, or loss of consciousness, seek emergency medical care immediately as an electrolyte imbalance caused by dehydration or shock can be life-threatening.

How are electrolyte imbalances treated?
On a short term basis, electrolyte imbalances are addressed by either supplements or intravenous (IV) fluids to rehydrate the body quickly and restore any depleted minerals. IV fluids can also be used, in addition to certain oral medications or hemodialysis, to flush the body of any excess minerals that are present or to flush any excess waste from the blood.

In addition to addressing your immediate condition, your physician will also want to address your electrolyte imbalance for the long term, which generally means addressing your diet and possibly even referring you to a nutritionist. You’ll want to eat a diet that is plentiful in fruits and vegetables, especially such items as bananas, tomatoes, avocados, and sweet potatoes. If you are unable to get the electrolytes that you need from such sources, then additional supplements or medications may be prescribed. Furthermore, while it’s important to drink enough water in order to prevent dehydration and electrolyte loss, you should always be careful not to overdo it. Excessive hydration can lead to nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting, in turn only to leading to further dehydration and the loss of important minerals.

If you are in the Tampa area and are concerned about a potential electrolyte disorder or would just like general advice on keeping a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle, make an appointment with the on-site nutritionist available to you at Tampa Cardiovascular Associates by calling (813) 975-2800 today.

Posted by: Tampa Cardio

On: 29/05/2015

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