Chronic kidney disease and a decline in kidney function can cause electrolyte imbalances. At Commonwealth Nephrology Associates, our kidney specialists will monitor your electrolyte levels and treat any imbalances as part of your overall care.
What Are Electrolytes?
Found in your blood, urine, tissues, and other body fluids, electrolytes are minerals that have an electric charge, and they are vital to your body chemistry. Not only do they hydrate your body, but they also regulate nerve and muscle function, balance pH (acidity) levels, help move nutrients into cells and waste products out of cells, and help rebuild damaged tissue.
For example, your muscles depend on calcium, sodium, and potassium to contract. An imbalance can lead to muscle weakness or excessive contraction. Plus, your heart, muscles, and nerve cells need electrolytes to carry electric impulses to other cells. The electrolytes in your body include:
Electrolyte levels can fluctuate as the amount of water in your body changes, such as when you sweat a lot during exercise, become dehydrated, or experience diarrhea or vomiting. The kidneys and certain hormones regulate the concentration of each electrolyte.
When the level of an electrolyte in your blood becomes too high or too low, it leads to an imbalance that can affect normal bodily functions. The most common imbalances occur with sodium and potassium. Those with chronic kidney disease are particularly susceptible to hyperkalemia and hyponatremia.
Hyperkalemia is a condition caused by excess levels of potassium. Normal blood levels of potassium are critical for maintaining a normal heart electrical rhythm. The normal potassium level in the blood is 3.5-5.0 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L). Levels above 6 mEq/L represent severe hyperkalemia, which can lead to abnormal heart rhythms and even cardiac arrest.
Hyponatremia occurs when there is too little sodium in your body in relation to water. The normal sodium level in the blood is 135-145 mEq/L. Hyponatremia occurs when the sodium in your blood falls below 135 mEq/L. This can be caused by kidney disease, too little water intake (dehydration), or loss of water due to diarrhea and/or vomiting.
Certain medications may also cause electrolyte imbalances. For example, medications that treat high blood pressure such as diuretics, ACE inhibitors, or ARBs can cause hyperkalemia, while diuretics, antidepressants, and pain medications may cause hyponatremia.
If you have chronic kidney disease, it’s important to monitor your electrolyte levels. Our nephrologists can use blood tests and urinalysis to screen for electrolytes in your blood and measure acid-base balance and kidney function. If an imbalance is detected, it can be treated in a variety of ways, including oral rehydration therapy, IV electrolyte replacement therapy, or simple dietary and prevention recommendations.
For comprehensive kidney care in the Boston area, visit Commonwealth Nephrology Associates. We have 7 conveniently located offices in Norfolk, Natick, Marlborough, South Weymouth, Dorchester, Norwood, and Attleboro, Massachusetts. For an appointment, call (617) 739-2100 or you can Request an Appointment online.