First Time User? Sign Up Now
First Time User? Enroll now.
Home > Fitness & Health > Health Library > 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.
An oral rehydration solution (ORS) that contains the right balance of electrolytes can be helpful for people who have diarrhea or vomiting, or for athletes who compete in endurance events (such as long-distance cycling or running races). An ORS can come as a liquid that is ready to drink, or as a powder that needs to be mixed with a certain amount of water before drinking. ORS examples include Pedialyte and Vitalyte.
Current as of:
March 28, 2019
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2019 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
509 N. Bright Leaf Blvd.
Smithfield, NC 27577
Phone (919) 934-8171
Employee Intranet Login
Copyright 2020 UNC Health Care. All rights reserved.