Symptoms Of Electrolyte Imbalance In Elderly: Causes & Treatment

Electrolytes (i.e. minerals) such as – potassium, sodium and magnesium are needed by our body to help in the normal functioning of the cells and organs. Occasionally, the level of electrolytes in your body may fluctuate due to certain underlying factors and conditions. This causes an electrolyte imbalance in the body.

Electrolyte imbalance manifests as:

  • Exhaustion and weariness.
  • Muscle spasms and muscle cramps.
  • Irritability and short temperedness.
  • Reduced orientation and coordination.
  • Dry mouth and excessive thirst.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Slow heart rate
  • Palpitations
  • Low blood pressure
  • Constipation
  • Stiffness of the joints

In severe cases of electrolyte imbalance, you will observe:

  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Death

Causes Of Electrolyte Imbalance In Elderly

  • The chief cause for an electrolyte imbalance is dehydration. Dehydration, severe vomiting, profuse sweating, high grade fever and diarrhea are responsible for a loss of body fluids; this consequently triggers an inequality in the electrolytes.
  • An improper diet, which does not comprise of foods that are rich in minerals as well as malabsorption of minerals are two significant causative factors.
  • A host of conditions and disorders such as – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic diarrhea, vomiting, renal failure, pneumonia, eating disorders, alcoholism, anorexia nervosa, and hormonal disorders are linked to electrolyte imbalance.
  • Occasionally, certain drugs and medicines such as – antibiotics, diuretics, corticosteroids and chemotherapy medications are known to set off electrolyte imbalance too.
  • Those who drink a lot of water – more than 4 gallons of water per day may experience electrolyte imbalance symptoms too.
  • Burn victims lose fluids and suffer from an electrolyte imbalance.
  • Seldom, too much exercise and heavy exertion can cause an imbalance in the body as well.

Treatment For Electrolyte Imbalance In Elderly

  • In case you are experiencing any of the above mentioned signs and symptoms it is vital that you consult your physician and ascertain the cause. Your doctor will recommend a few tests and investigations to diagnose your condition.
  • If the electrolyte imbalance is due to an existing medical condition, the chief aim of the treatment regimen is to manage this condition. Hormone fluctuations, gastric derangement and kidney diseases need to be addressed immediately.
  • In some cases, making changes in your diet and making sure that you include plenty of mineral rich foods helps deal with the imbalance effectively.
  • Your health care provider may advise electrolyte containing drinks to treat the electrolyte imbalance.
  • In extreme cases, intravenous fluids are necessary to normalize the condition normal. If the symptoms aggravate, hospitalization may be needed.
  • As a preventive measure, ensure that you stay hydrated when you exercise.
  • Also, drink sufficient amounts of water, more so, during the summer. What’s more, do not think that dehydration occurs only during the hot summer months, you can suffer from electrolyte imbalance even in winters.
  • In case you experience side effects of any medication, discuss with your doctor immediately.
  • By and large, most cases are treated successfully. On the other hand, never ignore the symptoms of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance; it can turn life threatening.