Electrolyte Disorder

Electrolyte Disorder

Electrolyte disturbances are a condition when the electrolyte levels in the body are unbalanced, either too high or too low. An imbalance in electrolyte levels can cause various symptoms, ranging from nausea, diarrhea, to muscle cramps.

In the human body, there are several types of electrolytes, namely sodium, potassium , calcium, magnesium, phosphate, and phosphorus. These electrolytes can be obtained from food, drink, and supplements.

Electrolytes are needed by the body to keep the organs in the body functioning normally. Some body functions that are affected by electrolytes are heart rhythm, muscle contractions, and brain function.

Causes of Electrolyte Disorders

The causes of electrolyte disturbances vary, depending on the type of electrolyte in the body that is experiencing an imbalance. For example, the cause of a phosphate deficiency will be different from that of a magnesium deficiency.

However, electrolyte disturbances generally occur due to excessive loss of body fluids, such as from having extensive burns, excessive sweating, diarrhea , or vomiting continuously. Side effects of some drugs can also cause electrolyte disturbances.

The following are various types of electrolytes and the factors that can cause their levels in the body to be disturbed:

1. Phosphate

Phosphates function to strengthen bones and teeth, produce energy, and form cell layers. If the phosphate level in the body is excessive (hyperphosphatemia), it can cause problems in the muscles and bones, and increase the risk of heart attack  and stroke.

Hyperphosphatemia can occur due to several factors, namely:

  • Taking laxatives (laxatives) that contain phosphate in excess
  • Experiencing complications from cancer treatment (tumor lysis syndrome)
  • Have an underactive parathyroid gland
  • Have low calcium levels
  • Suffering from chronic kidney failure
  • Experiencing shortness of breath
  • Have a muscle injury

Meanwhile, phosphate deficiency or hypophosphatemia can occur due to the following factors:

  • Suffering from severe malnutrition due to anorexia or starvation
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Has severe burns
  • Having diabetes complications ( diabetic ketoacidosis )
  • Suffering from Fanconi syndrome, which is a kidney disorder that causes the absorption and release of certain substances in the body to become abnormal
  • Suffer from vitamin D deficiency
  • Have overactive parathyroid glands
  • Suffering from chronic diarrhea

Hypophosphatemia can also occur due to certain medications, such as iron, niacin (vitamin B3), antacids, diuretics, corticosteroids , bisphosphonates, acyclovir , paracetamol, or asthma medications.

2. Chloride

Chloride is a type of electrolyte that functions to maintain the pH balance in the blood and transmit nerve impulses. Chloride levels are regulated by the kidneys, so if there is an imbalance of chlorides, it may be due to kidney damage.

The following are some of the factors that can cause excess chloride (hyperchloremia) in the body:

  • Have a disturbance in blood pH ( metabolic acidosis or respiratory alkalosis)
  • Taking acetazolamide long term

Meanwhile, chloride deficiency (hypochloremia) can occur due to several factors, such as:

  • Suffering from prolonged diarrhea or vomiting
  • Have a chronic lung disease, such as emphysema
  • Suffering from heart failure
  • Disruption of blood pH ( metabolic alkalosis )
  • Taking laxatives, diuretics, or corticosteroids

3. Sodium/Sodium

Sodium functions to maintain the balance of body fluids and regulate nerve function and muscle contractions. The following are several factors that can cause a person to experience excess sodium (hypernatremia):

  • Suffering from severe dehydration
  • Experiencing loss of body fluids due to fever
  • Suffering from diarrhea
  • Experiencing vomiting
  • Suffering from chronic respiratory diseases, such as bronchitis
  • Taking corticosteroid drugs
  • Too much sweating due to excessive exercise

Meanwhile, a person can experience sodium / sodium deficiency ( hyponatremia ) due to the following factors:

  • Suffer from malnutrition
  • Have thyroid, adrenal, or hypothalamic disorders
  • Suffering from kidney failure
  • Suffering from heart failure
  • Having alcohol addiction
  • Taking diuretics or anticonvulsants

4. Calcium

Calcium is a mineral that is essential for the function of organs, nerves, muscles, and body cells. Calcium is also useful for blood clotting and bone health. However, excess levels of calcium in the blood (hypercalcemia) can cause various symptoms, including headaches, weakness, nausea, vomiting, and bone pain.

A person is at risk for hypercalcemia if they have the following conditions:

  • Suffering from kidney disease
  • Suffering from thyroid disorders, such as hyperparathyroidism
  • Taking certain medications, such as lithium, theophylline, or diuretics
  • Have a lung disease, such as tuberculosis (TB) or sarcoidosis
  • Suffering from certain types of cancer, such as lung cancer and breast cancer
  • Taking antacids or vitamin D supplements in excess

Lack of calcium levels in the blood (hypocalcemia) is also not good for health, because it can increase the risk of developing osteoporosis . This condition can occur due to several factors, namely:

  • Suffering from pancreatitis
  • Suffering from kidney failure
  • Suffering from prostate cancer
  • Suffer from vitamin D deficiency
  • Taking heparin or anticonvulsants

5. Potassium/Potassium

Potassium plays an important role in regulating heart function, as well as maintaining nerve and muscle function. Potassium levels in the body can exceed normal ( hyperkalemia ) if a person has factors such as the following:

  • Suffering from kidney failure
  • Suffering from severe dehydration
  • Taking diuretic drugs or blood pressure lowering drugs
  • Suffering from complications of diabetes, such as diabetic ketoacidosis

Meanwhile, several factors that can increase a person's risk of experiencing a deficiency in potassium levels ( hypokalemia ) are:

  • Suffering from eating disorders
  • Experiencing dehydration
  • Suffering from vomiting and diarrhea
  • Taking laxatives, diuretics, or insulin

6. Magnesium

Magnesium is an important mineral that functions to regulate nerve function, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. Magnesium also plays a role in maintaining heart health, producing energy for the body, and maintaining bone health.

Excess levels of magnesium ( hypermagnesemia ) can cause muscle weakness, slow reflexes, drowsiness, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, slow or irregular heart rate, slower breathing than usual, and even fainting.

A person is at risk of experiencing hypermagnesemia if they have factors such as the following:

  • Experiencing an overdose of magnesium supplements
  • Suffering from kidney failure
  • Suffering from certain diseases, such as hypothyroidism and Addison's disease
  • Has extensive burns
  • Taking certain medications, such as lithium , antacids, or laxatives

Not only excess, magnesium deficiency (hypomagnesemia) can also cause various health problems, including tremors , muscle twitches, insomnia, tingling, numbness, palpitations ( tachycardia ), confusion, and seizures.

The following are several factors that can increase a person's risk of experiencing hypomagnesemia:

  • Suffering from heart failure
  • Suffer from malnutrition
  • Taking diuretics, insulin, or chemotherapy drugs
  • Suffering from chronic diarrhea
  • Having alcohol addiction
  • Excessive sweating, for example due to excessive exercise

Risk Factors for Electrolyte Disorders

Anyone can have electrolyte disturbances, but people with the following conditions are more prone to experiencing them:

  • Suffer from an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia
  • Have problems with the thyroid, parathyroid, or adrenal glands
  • Taking certain drugs, such as corticosteroids, insulin, laxatives, or diuretics
  • Suffering from heart failure
  • Having alcohol addiction
  • Has extensive burns
  • Suffering from kidney disease
  • Had a broken bone
  • Suffering from cirrhosis

Symptoms of Electrolyte Disorders

Mild electrolyte disturbances generally have no symptoms. Symptoms usually begin to appear when the condition is getting worse. The following are symptoms that can arise due to an imbalance in electrolyte levels in the body:

  • Headache
  • Weak
  • Nauseous
  • Vomit
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Fast heart rate
  • Muscle cramp
  • Frequent urination
  • Seizure
  • tingling
  • Numb
  • stomach cramps
  • Confusion
  • Easy to get angry

When to go to the doctor

Immediately see a doctor if you feel symptoms of electrolyte disturbances. The reason is, if not treated immediately, electrolyte disturbances can cause serious health problems that can even cause death.

Diagnosis of Electrolyte Disorders

To diagnose electrolyte disorders, the doctor will ask questions about the symptoms experienced, medical history, and medications that the patient is currently taking. After that, the doctor will perform a thorough physical examination, especially an examination to determine the patient's body reflexes.

In order to make the diagnosis more accurate, the doctor will also perform several supporting examinations, such as:

  • Blood tests, to measure electrolyte levels and check kidney function
  • Urine test, to measure levels of several types of electrolytes (limited), such as calcium, chloride, potassium, and sodium
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG), to measure heart rhythm in cases of severe electrolyte disturbances

Other investigations may also be performed, depending on the patient's health condition. The examination aims to find out the underlying cause of electrolyte disturbances.

Treatment of Electrolyte Disorders

Treatment in patients with electrolyte disturbances depends on the type of electrolyte in the body experiencing the imbalance and the underlying cause. However, in essence, the goal of treatment is to restore the balance of electrolyte levels in the body.

Some treatments that can be done to restore the balance of electrolyte levels in the body are:

  • Giving intravenous fluids containing sodium chloride, to restore body fluids and electrolyte levels that have decreased due to diarrhea or vomiting
  • Administering drugs through a vein (injecting), to increase electrolyte levels in the blood, such as calcium or potassium
  • Administration of drugs or supplements (oral medication), to treat chronic electrolyte disturbances

If the patient's condition does not improve with the above treatments, some conditions of electrolyte disturbances require special measures, such as hemodialysis ( dialysis ) to treat excess potassium in the blood.

Complications of Electrolyte Disorders

Electrolyte disorders can cause serious complications if not treated immediately. Some of these complications are:

  • High fever
  • Brain swelling or cerebral edema
  • Seizure
  • Coma

Prevention of Electrolyte Disorders

Electrolyte disturbances are not always preventable. However, you can reduce your risk of electrolyte disturbances by:

  • Consume electrolyte drinks or ORS when experiencing diarrhea or vomiting
  • Keep your body hydrated by drinking enough water every day
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