Serum Electrolyte

serum electrolyte test

Last Updated December 20th, 2021

What are Electrolytes?

Electrolytes are chemical substances that are found naturally in the body. These are minerals that are present in our body tissues, blood, body fluids, and urine. Our body drains electrolytes when we sweat or do some strenuous activity. So, we need to replenish electrolytes by consuming electrolyte-enriched fluids, foods and mineral supplements.

Why are Electrolytes important?

Electrolytes are electrically charged ions and help to maintain:

– The water balance in the body.
– Generate energy.
– Maintain the body’s acid balance or pH level.
– They help in the overall functioning of the body.
– Muscle functions.
– Repairing damaged tissue.
– Nutrient transportation throughout the body.

What type of electrolytes are found in the body?

– Calcium
– Phosphorus
– Chloride
– Sodium

What is an Electrolyte test?

An electrolyte test or electrolyte panel is a blood test that helps to measure whether there is a deficit or imbalance of electrolytes in your body. An electrolyte test can also be done through a urine test.

Does this test have any other names?

The alternative names of the electrolytes test are:

– Electrolyte panel.
– Lytes.
– Sodium (Na).
– Potassium (K).
– Chloride (Cl).
– Carbon dioxide (CO2).

What is the importance of an Electrolyte test?

Your doctor may suggest an electrolytes test for several reasons such as:

– For routine physical checkup as part of many other tests.

– If you are under ACE inhibitors for high blood pressure.

– To check your acid-balance or blood pH balance.

– To investigate the functioning of an organ of the body.

If there is an electrolyte imbalance in the body, an electrolyte test will help to find out which mineral is causing the imbalance. E.g., the imbalance may be caused if the sodium or potassium levels are too low or there is an imbalance in the bicarbonates.

An electrolyte test can also be ordered if you are suffering from any chronic illness and are under medications that are causing an electrolyte imbalance. The electrolyte test can be ordered to diagnose the following medical conditions:

Kidney disease.
– Liver disease.
– Heart problem.
– High blood pressure.

When to get tested?

If you have mild electrolyte disorder, you may not exhibit any symptoms unless your condition becomes severe. Your doctor may also order an electrolyte test if you are admitted to the hospital or as part of your routine checkup. The test may be recommended if you are experiencing the following symptoms:

– Fatigue
– Weakness
– Irregular heartbeat
– Nausea
– Vomiting
– Diarrhea
– Constipation
Abdominal cramps
– Headaches
– Irritation
– Confusion

Patients who have been hospitalized due to heart failure may be required to do an electrolyte panel test. Also, if you are taking any diuretics or any other medication which causes increased urination, your doctor may ask you to do an electrolyte test.

What is an Electrolyte imbalance?

An electrolyte imbalance is a condition in which the electrolyte level in your blood is too high or too low than the normal levels. This imbalance can be caused due to several reasons:

– Loss of water from your body.
– Chronic diarrhea.
– Extreme loss of body fluids due to burns.

When you exercise or do strenuous activities, water containing essential minerals like sodium and potassium are drained out of your body. This can cause electrolyte imbalance. The kidneys along with several other hormones help to maintain the electrolyte balance in our body. The imbalance can cause serious health issues and the electrolytes should be replaced to regulate the balance.

What are the causes of Electrolyte imbalance?

There are many causes for electrolyte imbalance such as:

– Chronic dehydration.
– Diarrhea or vomiting.
– Kidney disorder.
– Acid imbalance.
– Heart failure.
– Old age.
– Undergoing treatment for cancer.
– Poor diet.
– Drugs like diuretics.

How do I prepare for the Electrolyte test?

There are no special preparations needed for an electrolyte test. However, if you are under any specific medication, herbs, vitamins, supplements, or diet, you need to inform that to your health care provider. Your health care provider may ask you to stop taking certain medications, food, or drinks a few hours or a day before the test to get the best results.

Do I need to fast before the test?

No, there is no need to do fasting before the test. However, if you are having other blood tests, you may be required to stop eating or drinking anything a few hours before the test.

How is the Electrolyte test done?

The electrolyte test is done through a blood test or a urine sample test. In the case of a blood test, a small sample of blood is collected through venipuncture (blood collected from a vein), usually from the upper part of your arm. The blood sample is then sent to the laboratory for further assessment. For the urine test, a urine sample is collected in a specimen container usually early in the morning.

How long will it take to perform the test?

The test is really simple and will only take a few minutes.

Can I resume normal work after the test?

Yes, you can resume your normal daily activities right after the test. Certain patients may complain of lightheadedness or dizziness. They can rest for a while before resuming their normal work.

When will I get my test results?

You will get your test results within a day or two.

What is the average cost of the Electrolyte test in India?

The average cost of the Electrolyte test in India can be anywhere between Rs 140 to Rs 1500 depending on the city, quality, and laboratory conducting the test.

What are the reference ranges for Electrolytes?

Type  Range in mEq/L and mmol/L
Sodium 135-145 mEq/L (milliEquivalents/liter)
Potassium 3.5-5.0 mEq/L
Chloride 98-108 mmol/L (millimoles per liter)
Bicarbonate (Carbon Dioxide) 22-30 mmol/L
Calcium 2.20-2.55 mmol/L
Magnesium 0.70-0.95 mmol/L
Phosphate 0.8-1.3 mmol/L

What does my test result indicate?

It is essential to maintain normal electrolyte levels for a healthy body. If the electrolyte components are too high or too low, it can harm the body. If your electrolyte levels are above or below the normal levels, you must immediately consult your doctor who will explain the test results and start the treatment.

Sodium or Na: Sodium is the most important component of your electrolytes and maintains the fluid and water retention in your body.
If your sodium level is less than 135 mEq/L, it indicates hyponatremia. It can be caused due to:

– Renal failure.
– Cardiac failure.
– Severe vomiting.
– Chronic diarrhea.

Hypernatremia occurs when sodium is greater than 145 mEq/L. This may occur due to excessive infusion of sodium bicarbonate or sodium chloride.

Potassium: Potassium or K is important for the proper functioning of the nerves, skeletal, and cardiac muscles. Hypokalemia is a condition when the serum potassium is less than 3.5 mmol/L. It can be caused due to many reasons such as decreased oral intake of potassium or gastrointestinal or renal loss of potassium. Hyperkalemia, when your potassium levels are more than 5.0 mmol/L and are commonly caused due to over intake of potassium.

Magnesium or Mg: Magnesium is another important component. Hypomagnesaemia can occur if the magnesium levels are less than 0.70 mmol/L. This occurs due to decreased intake or loss of magnesium from the body. Hypermagnesemia occurs when the blood magnesium level is more than 0.95 mmol/L.

Calcium or Ca: Calcium helps in muscle contractions and the clotting of the blood. Hypocalcemia is the condition when the blood serum calcium is less than 2.20 mmol/L. Hypercalcemia occurs when the levels of calcium are elevated in the blood.

Phosphate or P: Hypophosphatemia is the condition when the phosphate levels are less than the normal range. Reasons for hypophosphatemia are alcohol abuse, hyperthyroidism, and deficiency of vitamin D. In hyperphosphatemia, the levels of phosphate in the body are elevated.

Sodium Chloride or NaCl: Chloride regulates the level of body fluids. Hypochloremia is the condition when the body loses too much chloride. Hyperchloremia refers to the elevated levels of chloride in the body.

Bicarbonates: Abnormal levels of bicarbonates may be due to kidney disease, respiratory problems, or metabolic dysfunction.

Can pregnant women undergo an Electrolyte test?

The study of maternal serum electrolytes during pregnancy is extremely important if the patient is suffering from hypertension. Hypertension is a major cause of maternal and fetal morbidity.

Can the Electrolytes test be done in children and infants?

Electrolyte disorder is very common in children and infants. An electrolyte imbalance can cause various symptoms:

Darkening of urine.
– Severe dehydration.
– Difficulty in breathing.
– Rapid heart rate.
– Muscle spasms.

Severe dehydration can cause an electrolyte imbalance that can lead to swelling or shrinking of brain tissues, seizures, arrhythmia, and can affect the vital organs of the child. In such cases, electrolyte blood and urine test are conducted to study the electrolyte levels and to avoid further complications.
– Irregular heartbeat.
– Rapid heartbeat.
– Nausea and vomiting.
– Abdominal cramps.
– Muscle cramping.
– Confusion.

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