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Electrolytes (cont.)

Conditions of Magnesium Imbalance

Hypomagnesemia, too little magnesium in the blood stream, may occur because of many reasons. Some have to do with dietary deficiencies, inability of the intestine to absorb the chemical, or due to increased excretion. Common causes of low magnesium include alcoholism and its associated malnutrition, chronic diarrhea, and medications like diuretics (water pills used to control high blood pressure). More than half of hospitalized patients in ICUs may become magnesium deficient.

Symptoms involve the heart with rhythm abnormalities, muscles with weakness and cramps, and the nervous system, potentially causing confusion, hallucinations, and seizures.

Hypermagnesemia describes too much magnesium in the blood stream and most often occurs in patients with kidney function problems in which the excretion of magnesium is limited. In these patients, too much magnesium intake in the diet or from magnesium-containing medications like milk of magnesia or Maalox may cause elevated magnesium levels. Since the absorption and excretion of magnesium is linked to other electrolytes, other diseases may be associated with high magnesium levels, including diabetic ketoacidosis, adrenal insufficiency, and hyperparathyroidism. Hypermagnesemia is often associated with hypocalcemia (low calcium) and hyperkalemia (high potassium).

Symptoms can include heart rhythm disturbances, muscle weakness, nausea and vomiting, and breathing difficulties.

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Fluid, Electrolyte, and Nutrition Management in the Newborn »

This article describes important principles and specific methods of fluid, electrolyte, and nutrition (FEN) management in newborns, with a special focus on patients with complex fluid and electrolyte requirements, including premature, very low birth weight (VLBW), and extremely low birth weight (ELBW) neonates, as well as patients who have undergone abdominal surgery and those who have sepsis.

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