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Homeostasis and Electrolytes for the Correctional Nurse

Homeostasis refers to the body’s ability to maintain a stable internal environment in spite of changes that are occurring externally.  It is a healthy state that occurs through the constant adjustment of biochemical and physiological mechanisms, also known as the body’s dynamic equilibrium. Variables that impact the maintenance of homeostasis include temperature, glucose, blood pressure, and pH. 

Electrolytes are necessary for life, and the body strives to maintain their balance.  They are ions and may either be positively charged or negatively charged.  These ions perform important functions such as contracting muscles, producing energy for cellular functions, and moving fluids between cells.  The production and control of electrolytes are done through a feedback mechanism managed by the kidneys and adrenal glands.  When electrolytes are imbalanced, and the feedback mechanisms no longer work to restore balance, outward signs of distress are observable in the patient.  

The positively charged ions include sodium (Na+); potassium (K+); calcium (Ca++); and magnesium (Mg+).  The negatively charged ions include Chloride (Cl-); Phosphate (PO4-); and Bicarbonate (HCO3-). 

In the following class, we will discuss homeostasis in general.  We will also review the main electrolytes of the body, including their major functions, the signs and symptoms of a deficit of each electrolyte, the signs and symptoms of an excess of each electrolyte, and the typical treatment for each abnormal condition.