Electrolyte imbalance Overview

An electrolyte imbalance occurs when the various mineral electrolytes in the body are abnormally imbalanced. Levels may be too low or too high. Examples include magnesium, sodium (salt), potassium, and various other types. Incorrect levels of these substances can have serious consequences affecting the heart, breathing, and various other body processes. Electrolyte imbalance often occurs with dehydration (e.g. from vomiting, diarrhea), and can be very serious. Other metabolic disorders can cause electrolyte imbalances to occur, such as diabetes and diabetic ketoacidosis. Mild electrolyte imbalances may be resolved with fluid supplements containing salts and other substances; various sports drinks and over-the-counter electrolyte products are available. However, electrolyte imbalance and dehydration should not be underestimated, as they can be dangerous, especially in children, the elderly and other risk groups. More severe electrolyte imbalances are potentially fatal (e.g. breathing difficulty, risk of heart attack), and require hospitalization with intravenous correction of electrolytes and other treatments.

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