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Electrolytes

Electrolytes are minerals in your blood and other body fluids that carry an electric charge.

Electrolytes affect how your body functions in many ways, including:

  • The amount of water in your body
  • The acidity of your blood (pH)
  • Your muscle function
  • Other important processes

You lose electrolytes when you sweat. You must replace them by drinking fluids that contain electrolytes. Water does not contain electrolytes.

Common electrolytes include:

  • Calcium
  • Chloride
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Sodium

Electrolytes can be acids, bases, or salts. They can be measured by different blood tests. Each electrolyte can be measured separately, such as:

Note: Serum is the part of blood that doesn't contain cells.

Sodium, potassium, and chloride levels can also be measured as part of a basic metabolic panel. A more complete test, called comprehensive metabolic panel, can test for these several more electrolytes.

The electrolytes - urine test measures electrolytes in urine. It tests the levels of calcium, chloride, potassium, sodium, and other electrolytes.

References

Chernecky CC, Berger BJ. Electrolytes panel - blood. In: Chernecky CC, Berger BJ, eds. Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures. 6th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:464-467.

DuBose TD. Disorders of acid-base balance. In: Skorecki K, Chertow GM, Marsden PA, Taal MW, Yu ASL, eds. Brenner and Rector's The Kidney. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 17.

Review Date: 11/20/2017

Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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