Care During Chemotherapy and Beyond
What are electrolytes?
many chemicals in your blood stream that regulate important functions of our bodies.
These chemicals are called electrolytes. When dissolved in water,
electrolytes separate into positively and negatively charged ions. Your body's
nerve reactions and muscle function are dependent upon the proper exchange of these electrolyte
ions outside and inside cells.
Examples of electrolytes are calcium, magnesium,
potassium, and sodium. Electrolyte Imbalance can cause a variety of symptoms.
Normal Adult Values
* Note: Normal values
may vary from laboratory to laboratory.
Interpreting Blood Test
Results - Electrolyte Imbalance:
an electrolyte imbalance?
many causes for an electrolyte imbalance. Causes for an electrolyte
imbalance may include:
Loss of body fluids from prolonged vomiting,
diarrhea, sweating or high fever
Inadequate diet and
lack of vitamins from food
Malabsorption - your
body may be unable to absorb these electrolytes due to a variety of stomach disorders,
medications, or may be how food is taken in
Hormonal or endocrine
A complication of chemotherapy is tumor lysis
syndrome. This occurs when your body breaks down tumor cells rapidly after
chemotherapy, causing a low blood calcium level, high blood potassium levels, and
other electrolyte abnormalities.
may cause an electrolyte imbalance such as:
What are some
symptoms of electrolyte imbalance to look for?
As described, an electrolyte imbalance
may create a number of symptoms. The symptoms of electrolyte imbalance are
based on which of the electrolyte levels are affected.
If your blood test results indicate an
altered potassium, magnesium, sodium, or calcium levels, you may experience muscle
spasm, weakness, twitching, or convulsions.
Blood test results showing low levels may lead
to: irregular heartbeat, confusion, blood pressure changes, nervous system or bone
Blood test results showing high levels may lead
to: weakness or twitching of the muscles, numbness, fatigue, irregular heartbeat
and blood pressure changes.
How is an electrolyte imbalance diagnosed?
imbalance is usually diagnosed based upon information obtained through:
Your history of symptoms.
A physical examination by your healthcare provider.
Urine and blood test results.
If there are other abnormalities based on these
findings, your healthcare provider may suggest further testing, such as an EKG.
(Severely high or low potassium, magnesium and/or sodium levels can affect your
If you have an electrolyte imbalance due to
kidney problems, your healthcare provider may want to do an ultrasound or x-ray
of your kidneys.
of an electrolyte imbalance:
- Identifying and
treating the underlying problemcausing the electrolyte imbalance.
- Intravenous fluids,
- A Minor electrolyte
imbalance may be corrected by diet changes. For example; eating a diet rich
in potassium if you have low potassium levels, or restricting your water intake
if you have a low blood sodium level.
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Note: We strongly encourage you to talk with your health care professional
about your specific medical condition and treatments. The information contained
in this website is meant to be helpful and educational, but is not a substitute
for medical advice.
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