Acid-Base Electrolytes

What are Electrolytes?

Electrolytes are particles that carry an electric charge when they are dissolved in blood. The kidneys help to maintain electrolyte concentrations by regulating its concentrations in the body. Any disturbance in this process often leads to an electrolyte imbalance.

The different electrolytes are:

  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Phosphorus
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium

Renal Failure is often complicated by elevated potassium, phosphate and magnesium and decreased sodium and calcium.


Sodium plays a major role in the body by maintaining fluid balance. Its major function is in nerve and muscle function. The body obtains sodium from food and drink and loses it in sweat and urine. Kidneys, when functioning normally, maintain a consistent level of sodium by adjusting the amount excreted from the body. When sodium intake and excretion are not in balance, it may lead to either high sodium (Hypernatremia) or low sodium (Hyponatremia).


Potassium is necessary for the normal functioning of cells, nerves and muscles. Potassium is obtained from food and drinks and lost primarily in urine, but also through the digestive tract and in sweat. Imbalances in potassium can lead to high potassium (Hyperkalemia) or low potassium (Hypokalemia).


In the body, almost all phosphorus is combined with oxygen to form phosphate. Phosphate is used as a building block for many substances such as DNA, cell membranes, etc. The body obtains phosphate from food and excretes it in urine and sometimes stool. Foods that are phosphate rich are milk, egg yolks, chocolate and soft drinks. Imbalances in phosphate may be too high (Hyperphosphatemia) or too low (Hypophosphatemia).


Calcium has many functions which include – formation of bone and teeth, muscle contraction, normal functioning of enzymes, blood clotting and maintenance of normal heart rhythm. The level of calcium in the blood is maintained by 2 hormones – Parathyroid Hormone (PTH) and Calcitonin. The body moves calcium out of bones into the blood to maintain calcium levels. PTH increases the calcium level in blood whereas calcitonin is responsible for lowering calcium level in the blood. Too much calcium is Hypercalcemia and too little calcium is Hypocalcemia.


Magnesium is required for the formation of bone and teeth and for normal functioning of nerves and muscles. Too much magnesium is Hypermagnesemia and too low magnesium is hypomagnesemia.

Disclaimer: The UCLA Health System cannot guarantee the accuracy of such information. The information is provided without warranty or guarantee of any kind. Please speak to your Physician before making any changes.