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Nov 2023

What should you know about an electrolyte panel test?

Posted By Suborna Fermi Posted on Nov 18, 2023

An electrolyte panel test is a blood test that measures the electrolytes or minerals in your blood sample. Electrolyte imbalance may arise for many reasons, such as dehydration, heart disease, lung disease, and kidney disease. Most healthcare advisers suggest an anion gap blood test along with an electrolyte test to determine why some electrolyte levels are too high or low.

What are electrolytes and their purposes?

As the name suggests, electrolytes promote an electrical charge when they solvate in bodily fluids. Electrolytes are minerals that are found in the blood, tissue, urine, and other bodily fluids. We also get electrolytes from food, drinks, and supplements. These minerals have many critical roles in your body; they help in:

  • Balancing body fluids
  • Controlling heart rate and rhythm
  • Maintaining blood pressure
  • Promoting bone and dental health
  • Supporting nerve function

What is an electrolyte panel test?

An electrolyte panel test is a blood test that examines the levels of seven electrolytes present in the blood, such as:

  • Sodium: This electrolyte helps balance the amount of fluid outside the body cells. It also promotes nerve and muscle function.
  • Calcium: Calcium supports the nervous system, circulatory system, and musculoskeletal system.
  • Potassium: Potassium helps balance the amount of fluid inside the body cells. It also helps the heart and muscles work correctly.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium promotes the development of bones and teeth.
  • Bicarbonate: This mineral helps control the body's usual pH level. A healthy pH balance is important to prevent the body from becoming too acidic and other health issues.
  • Chloride: This electrolyte helps regulate the amount of fluid and nutrients going in and out of the cells. It stimulates nerve and muscle functions. Chloride also promotes oxygen and carbon dioxide flow within the cells.
  • Phosphate: Phosphate aids the development of the skeletal system and promotes nerve and muscle function.

Abnormal levels of these electrolytes can indicate certain life-threatening health issues, including arrhythmia, kidney disease, and high blood pressure.

What is the purpose of the electrolyte panel test?

You may get an electrolyte test as part of routine blood work or a comprehensive metabolic panel. The main purpose of this test is to determine the cause of an electrolyte imbalance. Common reasons for electrolyte imbalances include:

  • Dehydration
  • Overhydration
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Burns
  • Kidney disease
  • Cirrhosis
  • Heart disease, or heart failure
  • High blood pressure
  • Substance use disorder

When should I go for an electrolyte test?

You should go for this test if you are having symptoms of electrolyte imbalance. A person with an electrolyte imbalance may experience weakness, nausea, confusion, and an irregular heartbeat.

Do I need to fast before the electrolyte test?

You are not required to fast before the test. However, you might need to fast if your healthcare provider has ordered additional tests, such as blood sugar or cholesterol tests.

What are the normal ranges for the electrolytes?

The normal ranges for electrolytes are as follows:

  • Sodium: 136-144 mmol/L.
  • Calcium: 8.5-10.2 mg/dL.
  • Potassium: 3.7-5.1 mmol/L.
  • Magnesium: 1.7-2.2 mg/dL.
  • Bicarbonate: 22-30 mmol/L.
  • Chloride: 97-105 mmol/L.
  • Phosphate: 2.5-4.8 mg/dL.

Generally, the blood test report will include a reference range for the measured levels. However, as different factors, including age and sex, can affect your test results, it is advisable to consult with your doctor for a better understanding of your test results.