Table of Contents

What are Electrolytes?

An electrolyte is a substance that dissociates in water into charged particles called ions. Positively charged ions are called cations. Negatively charged ions are called anions. Simply, an electrolyte is a substance that can conduct an electric current when melted or dissolved in water.

Electrolysis is the process of passing an electric current through a substance in the molten or aqueous state thereby decomposing it. Glucose and urea do not dissociate in water because they have no electric charge. Therefore, these substances are called nonelectrolytes. The electrolyte is a compound which conducts electricity in the molten state or when dissolved in water.

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Electrolytes Explanation

An ionic compound for example, sodium chloride dissolved in water is called an electrolyte because it conducts electricity. Electrolytes are important body constituents because they,

        • Conduct electricity, essential for muscle and nerve function.
        • Exert osmotic pressure, keeping body fluids in their own compartments.
        • Act as before to resist pH changes in body fluids.

Many biological compounds, for example, carbohydrates are not ionic and therefore have no electrical properties when dissolved in water. Important electrolytes other than sodium and chloride include potassium, calcium, bicarbonate and phosphate.

List of Electrolytes

1. Major Electrolytes Outside the Cell

Sodium and chloride, the major electrolytes in extracellular fluid, exert most of their influence outside the cell. Sodium concentration affects serum osmolality and extracellular fluid volume. Sodium also helps nerve and muscle cells interact. Chloride helps maintaining osmotic pressure. Gastric mucosal cells need chloride to produce hydrochloric acid, which breaks down food into absorbable components.

Calcium and bicarbonate are two other electrolytes found in extracellular fluid. Calcium is the major cation involved in the structure and function of bones and teeth. Calcium is needed to

        • stabilize the cell membrane and reduce its permeability to sodium transmit nerve impulses
        • contract muscles
        • coagulate blood
        • form bone and teeth
        • bicarbonate plays a vital role in acid base balance.

2. Major Electrolytes Inside the Cell

Potassium, phosphate and magnesium are among the most abundant electrolytes inside the cell.

Potent potassium

        • Potassium plays an important role in
        • cell excitability regulation
        • nerve impulse conduction
        • resting membrane potential
        • muscle contraction and myocardial membrane responsiveness
        • intracellular osmolality control

Fundamental phosphorus

The body contains phosphorus in the form of phosphate salts. Sometime the word phosphorus in the form of phosphate salts. Sometimes the words phosphorus and phosphate are used interchangeably. Phosphate is essential for energy metabolism. Combined with calcium, phosphate plays a key role in bone and tooth mineralization. It also helps maintain acid-base balance.

Magnesium acts as a catalyst for enzyme reactions. It regulates neuromuscular contraction promotes normal functioning of the nervous and cardiovascular systems, and cardiovascular systems and aids in protein synthesis and sodium and potassium ion transportation.

Understanding Electrolytes

Electrolytes help to regulate water distribution, govern acid base balance and transmit nerve impulses. They also contribute to energy generation and blood clotting. This table summarizes the functions of each of the body’s major electrolytes.

Potassium (K)
  • Main intracellular fluid (ICF) cation.
  • Regulate cell excitability.
  • Permeates cell membranes, thereby affecting the cells electrical status.
  • Helps to control ICF osmolality and consequently ICF osmotic pressure.
Magnesium (Mg)
  • A leading ICF cation.
  • Contributes to many enzymatic and metabolic processes particularly protein synthesis.
  • Modifies nerve impulse transmission and skeletal muscle response.
Phosphorus (P)
  • Main ICF anion
  • Promotes energy storage and carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism.
  • Acts as a hydrogen buffer.
Sodium (Na)
  • Main extracellular fluid (ECF) cation.
  • Helps govern normal ECF osmolality.
  • Helps maintain acid-base balance
  • Activate nerve and muscle cells
  • Influence water distribution.
Chloride (Cl)
  • Main ECF anion.
  • Helps maintain normal ECF osmolality.
  • Affects body pH.
  • Plays a vital role in maintaining acid-base balance and combines with hydrogen ions to produce hydrochloric acid.
Calcium (Ca)
  • A major cation in teeth and bones is found in fairly equal concentrations in ICF and ECF.
  • Also found in cell membranes, where it helps cells adhere to one another and maintain their shape.
  • Acts as an enzyme activator within cells.
  • Aids coagulation
  • Affects cell membrane permeability and firing level.

Electrochemical Cells

Electrochemical cells are of three basic types. The electrolytic cell, the galvanic cell, and the concentration cell. All such cells are similar in that they have four basic components. These components are

        • The electrolyte is the current-carrying medium between the anode and cathode. It usually is homogeneous in an aqueous solution, but in moist soil, it may vary locally as to concentration or kind of dissolved chemicals.
        • The anode is a metal or substance in contact with the electrolyte capable of conducting an electric current and corrodes by combining with chemicals in the electrolytes.
        • The cathode is also a metal contacting the electrolyte. It is not corroded but receives protection against corrosion.
        • The conductor extremely connects the anode and cathode and completes the circuit for current flow.

Electrolyte Movement

When cells die their contents spill into the extracellular area and upset the electrolyte balance. In this case, elevated levels of intracellular electrolytes are found in plasma.

Although electrolytes are generally concentrated in a specific compartment, they aren’t confined to these areas. Like fluids, they move around trying to maintain balance and electroneutrality.

Electrolyte Balance

Fluid and output acid-base balance hormone secretion and normal cell function can influence electrolyte balance. Because electrolytes and individual imbalances in one electrolyte can affect balance in others.

The body fluids contain a variety of dissolved chemicals that may be categorized as either nonelectrolytes or electrolytes. Nonelectrolytes are those compounds with covalent bonds that therefore do not dissociate when dissolved in water. Electrolytes are those compounds with at least one ionic bond that dissociate freely when dissolved in water.

Even though electrolytes exist inside and outside only the levels outside the cell in the bloodstream are measured. Although serum levels remain fairly stable throughout a person’s life span, understanding which levels are normal and which are abnormal is critical to decide quickly and appropriately to a patient’s electrolyte imbalance.

Frequently Asked Questions on Electrolytes


What are electrolytes in the body?

All electrolytes are sodium, calcium, potassium, chlorine, phosphate, and magnesium; You get them from the food you consume and your drinking fluids. Electrolyte levels can become too small or too high in your body. This can happen when the body changes its amount of water.


Why are electrolytes important?

Electrolytes are compounds in body fluids that make up electrically charged particles (ions). These ions hold the required electrical energy for many functions including muscle contractions and nerve impulse transmission. Numerous body functions depend on electrolytes.


What are common electrolytes?

Electrolytes are found in the human body, and the electrolyte balance in our bodies is necessary for our cells and our organs to function normally. Common electrolytes tested by blood-testing physicians include sodium, potassium, chloride, and bicarbonate.


Is Salt an electrolyte?

Placing a salt in a liquid (such as water) often contributes to an electrolyte solution, as the salt components dissociate in a process called liquid. Electrolytes can also be smelted salts. Molten sodium chloride, for example, is a liquid that can conduct electricity.


Is water an electrolyte?

Simple water, which has a very low ion content, can’t conduct electricity. When a solvent dissociates to form ions in water, it is called an electrolyte, since the solution is a strong electrical conductor.


Is sugar a Nonelectrolyte?

Glucose, or C6H12O6, is a typical example of a nonelectrolyte Glucose (sugar) dissolves readily in water, but because it does not dissociate in solution into ions, it is called a nonelectrolyte; glucose-containing solutions, therefore, do not conduct electricity. “Nonelectrolyte” says.

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