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Electrolyte Imbalance

The human body is composed of up to 60 % water. Adequate fluid and electrolyte levels are essential for healthy functioning of all organs and body systems. Electrolytes are found in the blood, urine, tissues and body fluids. Sodium, calcium, potassium, chlorine, phosphate and magnesium play an important role conducting electric charge within the body. These minerals must be maintained in the appropriate ratio for proper functioning of the muscles, nerves, brain and heart. If there is any imbalance in their ratio, which usually occurs due to change in water levels in the body, electrolyte imbalance will occur. The kidneys work as major regulators of the electrolyte balance. Kidney malfunction results in excessive electrolyte retention or excretion resulting in an imbalance.


Symptoms of electrolyte imbalance vary with the electrolyte. Typical symptoms of electrolyte imbalance include fatigue, dizziness, excessive sweating, cold extremities and trembling. Swelling in the feet, ankles, legs, and hands might also be due to a fluid and electrolyte imbalance. There might be nausea, reduced urine output, dark urine, dry skin, aching joints and dry mouth. In cases of severe electrolyte imbalance, there might be convulsions and seizures.

Urine test and blood tests are done to evaluate the electrolyte imbalance. Often kidney ultrasound or EKG might be ordered. Based on the electrolyte that is out of balance, treatment includes dietary changes, fluid intake restrictions and medications to correct the imbalance. Often medication like corticosteroids, laxatives, cough medicines, diuretics and oral contraceptives can cause changes in the electrolyte balance.

Hyponatremia: Imbalance in sodium concentration in the plasma.

Hypokalemiaa: Deficiency of potassium in the bloodstream.

Hypercalcemia: Elevated calcium level in the blood.

Renal Failure

Acute renal failure happens when the kidneys suddenly lose their ability to remove toxins from the urine. Typically the cause for a sudden kidney failure are acute tubular necrosis (ATN) and autoimmune kidney diseases. Other causes leading to kidney damage are acute pyelonephritis and septicemia. The symptoms indicating acute renal failure are changes in urination, lowered sensation in extremities and metallic taste in the mouth. Typical symptoms include nausea, blood in stools, swelling of feet and ankles, swelling of ankle or leg, fluid retention and fatigue. A person might also notice high blood pressure, nausea and reduced appetite. Change in mental alertness might be noticed.


A nephrologist will need to examine the patient and suggest further course of action. BUN test and blood tests for creatinine and potassium are done. Kidney ultrasound or MRI might be done to look for any stones, tumors or blockage. A person suffering acute kidney failure is hospitalized and the amount of liquid ingested in monitored. The diet has to be tailored to reduce proteins and salt. Diuretics might be prescribed for reducing fluid retention. In some cases, dialysis is done; especially when the potassium levels are abnormally high. The balance of body electrolytes is maintained.


Acute kidney failure is more common with older adults and those suffering kidney or liver disease, heart failure or diabetes. An abdominal surgery might also make you more susceptible to kidney failure. Severe dehydration, blood pressure medications and overuse of NSAIDs are other possible causes for renal failure. This condition can be life threatening if not treated in time. It can lead to chronic kidney failure or damage to the nervous system and the heart. The patient can develop very high blood pressure or loss of blood in the intestines leading to last-stage kidney disease. Treatment for kidney disease include antibiotics and iodine-based medications.


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Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: December 10, 2019