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Electrolytes are ionized molecules found throughout the blood, tissues, and cells of the body. These molecules, which are either positive (cations) or negative (anions), conduct an electric current and help to balance pH and acid-base levels in the body. Electrolytes also facilitate the passage of fluid between and within cells through a process known as osmosis and play a part in regulating the function of the neuromuscular, endocrine, and excretory systems.
The serum electrolytes include:
Medications, chronic diseases, and trauma (i.e., burns, fractures, etc.) may cause the concentration of certain electrolytes in the body to become too high (hyper-) or too low (hypo-). When this happens, an electrolyte imbalance, or disorder, results.
HYPERNATREMIA. Sodium helps the kidneys to regulate the amount of water the body retains or excretes. Consequently, individuals with elevated serum sodium levels also suffer from a loss of fluids, or dehydration. Hypernatremia can be caused by inadequate water intake, excessive fluid loss (i.e., diabetes insipidus, kidney disease, severe burns, and prolonged vomiting or diarrhea), or sodium retention (caused by excessive sodium intake or aldosteronism). In addition, certain drugs,
Symptoms of hypernatremia include:
HYPONATREMIA. Up to 1% of all hospitalized patients develop hyponatremia, making it one of the most common electrolyte disorders. Diuretics, certain psychoactive drugs (i.e., fluoxetine, sertraline, haloperidol), specific antipsychotics (lithium), vasopressin, chlorpropamide, the illicit drug "ecstasy", and other pharmaceuticals can cause decreased sodium levels, or hyponatremia. Low sodium levels may also be triggered by inadequate dietary intake of sodium, excessive perspiration, water intoxication, and impairment of adrenal gland or kidney function.
Symptoms of hyponatremia include:
Author Info: Paula Ford-Martin, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 2002This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your healthcare provider. Please consult a healthcare professional with any health concerns you may have.
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