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Electrolytes and Electrolyte Imbalances

Electrolytes are minerals found naturally in the body, such as potassium, calcium, sodium, and magnesium. Electrolytes are needed to keep the body's balance of fluids at the proper level and to maintain normal functions, such as heart rhythm, muscle contraction, and brain function.

If the body's electrolytes are not in proper balance, a person may have seizures, an irregular heartbeat, muscle weakness, and other problems. Electrolyte imbalances can be caused by a variety of health conditions, such as chronic heart or kidney disease, endocrine diseases (such as problems with the adrenal, pituitary, thyroid, or parathyroid glands), eating disorders, or bone disorders. Any condition that causes the body to lose too much water (such as diarrhea, vomiting, fever, or taking medicines called diuretics) can also lead to an electrolyte imbalance.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Last Revised June 16, 2011

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 16, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.