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Electrolyte Imbalance Symptoms

Electrolyte Imbalance Symptoms

Symptoms of electrolyte imbalance vary according to the cause and severity of the condition. Although muscle cramps, spasms, nausea, dizziness, etc., are common symptoms, there are several other potential signs that you should be aware of.
Madhura Pandit
Last Updated: Mar 19, 2018
Minerals or electrolytes like sodium, potassium, magnesium, etc., are required by the human body for proper functioning of cells and organs. However, sometimes the level of electrolytes in the body increases or decreases due to some underlying causes. This condition is known as electrolyte imbalance. It is also known as the body salt imbalance or the body chemical imbalance. Those mentioned below are the most common symptoms observed.
Common Symptoms
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle cramps and spasms
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Irritability
  • Vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Slow heart rate
  • Seizures
  • Palpitations
  • Low blood pressure
  • Lack of coordination
  • Constipation
  • Stiff joints
On the other hand, in case of severe electrolyte imbalance (i.e., in extreme cases), following symptoms may be seen. Note that these symptoms are extremely rare, but, you need to be aware of them.
  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Death
We will now peruse through the symptoms of individual electrolyte imbalance in detail.
Calcium Imbalance

High Calcium

Lethargy
Vomiting
Nausea
Thirst
Dehydration
Low blood pressure
Seizures
Coma

Low Calcium

Muscle spasms
High blood pressure
Tingling and numbness
Irritability
Brittle nails
Mood swings
Seizures

Sodium Imbalance

High Sodium
Thirst
Dry mouth
Dizziness
Fever
Vomiting
Diarrhea
Seizures
Death
Low Sodium
Muscle weakness
Swelling
Difficulty in breathing
Headache
Nausea
Stomach cramps
Seizures
Coma

Potassium Imbalance

High Potassium
Stomach pain
Weakness
Nausea
Diarrhea
Muscle pain
Irregular heartbeat
Cardiac arrest
Low Potassium
Fatigue
Weakness
Muscle pain
Muscle cramps
Fluid retention
Tetany
Paralysis

Magnesium Imbalance

High Magnesium
Difficulty breathing
Lethargy
Heavy perspiration
Decreased heart rate
Diarrhea
Irregular heartbeat
Cardiac arrest
Low Magnesium
Muscle weakness
Irregular heartbeat
Nausea
Cramps in legs
Vomiting
Seizures
Tremors

It is recommended to look for emergency medical help in case any severe symptoms are observed. Dehydration, in severe cases, can lead to unconsciousness, and can be fatal. Consulting the doctor immediately is advisable.
Causes
There can be many potential causes for electrolyte imbalance, dehydration being one of the most common ones. Dehydration, severe vomiting, and diarrhea leads to severe loss of body fluids. Secondly, having improper diet (not having foods rich in minerals), or malabsorption are also two prominent causes. Thirdly, electrolyte imbalance accompanies several diseases and disorders like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia, diarrhea, vomiting, renal failure, eating disorders, alcoholism, anorexia nervosa, hormonal disorders, etc. Sometimes, certain medications like diuretics, antibiotics, and chemotherapy drugs may also lead to electrolyte imbalance.
Treatment
The cause is identified before commencing any treatment. The doctor will advise you to undertake blood and urine test, X-ray to diagnose the condition. If the imbalance is caused due to any existing medical condition, the first priority is to treat the condition. In minor cases, making changes in the diet and including mineral rich foods can treat the imbalance. Secondly, having electrolyte containing drinks can also help in treating the imbalance.
In severe cases, IV (intravenous) fluids are used to bring the electrolyte level to normal. If the symptoms worsen, hospitalization may be required. It is recommended to consult the doctor immediately in case you cannot identify the cause of symptoms.
Preventive Measures
✔ As a preventive measure, make sure that you are well hydrated while undertaking exercise or sports activities.
✔ You can prevent dehydration by drinking adequate amounts of fluids and water, especially in the summer season.
✔ You should not be under the illusion that dehydration occurs only during summer, as there are chances of suffering from electrolyte imbalance even in winter.
✔ Having a proper diet (inclusive of fruits, vegetables, and nuts) goes a long way in preventing several diseases and disorder.
✔ In case you experience side effects of any medication, bring it to the doctor's notice immediately and get the medication changed.
In most of the cases, electrolyte imbalance can be treated effectively. However, it is not to be ignored, as it can turn life-threatening. Lastly, note that having a well-balanced diet and drinking adequate amounts of water helps in preventing electrolyte imbalance to a great extent. Take care!
Disclaimer: This information is meant for educational purposes only. It is not to be used as a substitute for doctor's advice.