Electrolytes are essential minerals your body needs to function properly. These minerals – such as sodium, calcium, and potassium – are present in many of the foods and drinks you consume.
Electrolytes are important because these minerals help to balance water levels in your body and regulate chemical reactions. Electrolytes support proper hydration, energy production, muscle contraction (including your heart’s ability to beat), blood pressure, and much more.
Kidney Patients at Risk
Your electrolyte levels can vary, depending on the amount of water in your body. The most common electrolyte imbalances involve potassium and sodium. Patients with impaired kidney function are especially susceptible to electrolyte disorders because the kidneys are no longer able to filter and remove excess fluid from the blood. The most common electrolyte imbalances associated with poor kidney function are hyperkalemia and hyponatremia.
Hyperkalemia (High Potassium)
When there is too much potassium in your blood, it is called hyperkalemia. This can cause mild to severe symptoms that occur suddenly or develop over time. These symptoms may include:
- Muscle weakness, numbness, tingling
- Nausea and vomiting
- Heart palpitations
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
Severe hyperkalemia is considered a medical emergency that can lead to heart problems and sudden death if not immediately treated.
Common causes of hyperkalemia are kidney disease, including acute and chronic renal failure, dehydration, poorly controlled diabetes, the use of potassium supplements or salt substitutes, and the side effects of certain medications, such as beta-blockers.
Hyperkalemia can be identified with a blood test. It is treated with a low-potassium diet and/or medications that help remove excess potassium from the body, such as diuretics (water pills) and binders that attract potassium and transport it out of the body with stool.
Hyponatremia (Low Sodium)
Not having enough sodium in the blood is a condition known as hyponatremia. It typically occurs when there is too much fluid in the body, which dilutes existing sodium levels and causes cells in the body to swell and enlarge.
Symptoms of hyponatremia may be mild to severe and include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fatigue and drowsiness
- Muscle cramps
Patients with kidney failure are especially prone to hyponatremia because the kidneys can no longer properly remove excess fluid from the body. Other common causes of this electrolyte disorder are the use of diuretics (which removes sodium from urine), diarrhea, and medications that increase urination or sweating, such as painkillers and antidepressants. Patients with congestive heart failure are also more likely to experience fluid buildup in the body, increasing their risk of hyponatremia.
Blood and urine tests can identify hyponatremia.
Treatment involves addressing the underlying cause of the electrolyte disorder. In addition, immediate therapies such as sodium solutions delivered by IV, or medications that help your body retain sodium, may provide immediate relief.
Electrolyte Disorder Treatment in Brockton & Taunton, MA
Patients with kidney disease or impairment have an increased risk of electrolyte disorders. Hyperkalemia (too much potassium) and hyponatremia (too little sodium) are the most common of these electrolyte disorders among kidney patients.
Make sure your kidneys continue to function as they should – which can help prevent common electrolyte disorders – with regular visits to your kidney care specialist at Associates in Nephrology in Brockton & Taunton, Massachusetts. Call us at (508) 587-0700 to schedule a visit, or simply request an appointment now.