Electrolytes - Pharmacology

An electrolyte is a substance that splits into ions when placed into water. An ion is an electrically charged particle that is either positively or negatively charged. A positively charged ion is called a cation and a negatively charged ion is called an anion.

  • Sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), calcium (Ca2+) , and Magnesium (Mg++) are electrolytes that are cations.
  • Chloride (Cl), Bicarbonate (HCO3), Phosphate (PO4), and Sulfate (SO4) are electrolytes that are anions.

An electrolyte is measured as a milli mole per liter (mmol/L). A millimole is the atomic weight of the electrolyte in milligrams. For example, the atomic weight of sodium is 23 milligrams. Therefore, 23 milligrams of sodium is measured as 1m mol of sodium.

An electrolyte is stored either intracellularly (inside the cell) or extracellularly (outside the cell). Intracellular electrolytes are mainly potassium, magnesium and some calcium.Extracellular electrolytes are mainly sodium and some calcium.

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