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Electrolyte Imbalance: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

Electrolytes are minerals in your blood. They include sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. When they are not at the right levels, you can feel very ill. You may not know what is causing it, but you know something is wrong. You may feel weak or numb, have muscle spasms, or twitch. Your heart may beat fast. Symptoms are different with each mineral. Too much is as bad as too little.

Minerals help keep your body working as it should. Vomiting, diarrhea, and fever can cause you to lose minerals. A problem with your kidneys can tip a mineral out of balance. So can taking certain medicines.

Your doctor may do more tests. He or she may change your medicine and diet. If you are low in one or more minerals, they may be given through a tube into your vein (I.V.). Your doctor may have you take or drink special fluids or pills. If your kidneys are failing, your blood may be filtered. This is called dialysis. It can put the minerals back in balance.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you have any problems with your medicines. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • Do not take any medicine without talking to your doctor first. This includes prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal medicines.
  • If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • Your doctor or dietitian may give you a diet plan to help balance your minerals. Follow the diet carefully.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • Your heartbeat seems to be irregular. It might be speeding up and then slowing down or skipping beats.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have muscle aches.
  • You feel very weak.
  • You are confused or cannot think clearly.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.