Electrolyte disturbance
In chemistry, an electrolyte is any substance containing free ions that make the substance electrically conductive. The most typical electrolyte is an ionic solution, but molten electrolytes and solid electrolytes are also possible....

s play a vital role in maintaining homeostasis
Homeostasis is the property of a system that regulates its internal environment and tends to maintain a stable, constant condition of properties like temperature or pH...

 within the body. They help to regulate myocardial and neurological function, fluid balance, oxygen delivery, acid-base balance and much more. Electrolyte imbalances can develop by the following mechanisms: excessive ingestion; diminished elimination of an electrolyte; diminished ingestion or excessive elimination of an electrolyte. The most common cause of electrolyte disturbances is renal failure
Renal failure
Renal failure or kidney failure describes a medical condition in which the kidneys fail to adequately filter toxins and waste products from the blood...


The most serious electrolyte disturbances involve abnormalities in the levels of sodium
Sodium is a chemical element with the symbol Na and atomic number 11. It is a soft, silvery-white, highly reactive metal and is a member of the alkali metals; its only stable isotope is 23Na. It is an abundant element that exists in numerous minerals, most commonly as sodium chloride...

, potassium
Potassium is the chemical element with the symbol K and atomic number 19. Elemental potassium is a soft silvery-white alkali metal that oxidizes rapidly in air and is very reactive with water, generating sufficient heat to ignite the hydrogen emitted in the reaction.Potassium and sodium are...

, and/or calcium
Calcium is the chemical element with the symbol Ca and atomic number 20. It has an atomic mass of 40.078 amu. Calcium is a soft gray alkaline earth metal, and is the fifth-most-abundant element by mass in the Earth's crust...

. Other electrolyte imbalances are less common, and often occur in conjunction with major electrolyte changes. Chronic laxative
Laxatives are foods, compounds, or drugs taken to induce bowel movements or to loosen the stool, most often taken to treat constipation. Certain stimulant, lubricant, and saline laxatives are used to evacuate the colon for rectal and/or bowel examinations, and may be supplemented by enemas under...

 abuse or severe diarrhea
Diarrhea , also spelled diarrhoea, is the condition of having three or more loose or liquid bowel movements per day. It is a common cause of death in developing countries and the second most common cause of infant deaths worldwide. The loss of fluids through diarrhea can cause dehydration and...

 or vomiting
Vomiting is the forceful expulsion of the contents of one's stomach through the mouth and sometimes the nose...

 can lead to electrolyte disturbances along with dehydration
In physiology and medicine, dehydration is defined as the excessive loss of body fluid. It is literally the removal of water from an object; however, in physiological terms, it entails a deficiency of fluid within an organism...

. People suffering from bulimia or anorexia nervosa
Anorexia nervosa
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by refusal to maintain a healthy body weight and an obsessive fear of gaining weight. Although commonly called "anorexia", that term on its own denotes any symptomatic loss of appetite and is not strictly accurate...

 are at especially high risk for an electrolyte imbalance.

General function

Electrolytes are important because they are what cells (especially nerve, heart, muscle) use to maintain voltages across their cell membranes and to carry electrical impulses (nerve impulses, muscle contractions) across themselves and to other cells. Kidneys work to keep the electrolyte concentrations in blood constant despite changes in your body. For example, during heavy exercise, electrolytes are lost in sweat, particularly sodium and potassium. These electrolytes must be replaced to keep the electrolyte concentrations of the body fluids constant.

See also

  • Acidosis
    Acidosis is an increased acidity in the blood and other body tissue . If not further qualified, it usually refers to acidity of the blood plasma....

  • Alkalosis
    Alkalosis refers to a condition reducing hydrogen ion concentration of arterial blood plasma . Generally, alkalosis is said to occur when pH of the blood exceeds 7.45. The opposite condition is acidosis .-Causes:...

  • Dehydration
    In physiology and medicine, dehydration is defined as the excessive loss of body fluid. It is literally the removal of water from an object; however, in physiological terms, it entails a deficiency of fluid within an organism...

  • Malnutrition
    Malnutrition is the condition that results from taking an unbalanced diet in which certain nutrients are lacking, in excess , or in the wrong proportions....

  • Starvation
    Starvation is a severe deficiency in caloric energy, nutrient and vitamin intake. It is the most extreme form of malnutrition. In humans, prolonged starvation can cause permanent organ damage and eventually, death...

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.