Electrolytes are minerals essential for health that have an electric charge. They include calcium, potassium, sodium and magnesium. These minerals are important for muscle function and regulation of blood acidity. High levels of any of these minerals can be dangerous.
High blood levels of magnesium (hypermagnesemia) mainly occur during kidney failure, as the kidneys cannot eliminate the excess magnesium. Other causes include accidental poisoning with Epsom salts, abuse of laxatives or antacids, and intravenous magnesium therapy.
Signs of mild hypermagnesemia may include drowsiness, headache, lethargy, nausea and diminished tendon reflexes. More serious cases have symptoms of confusion, muscle weakness and paralysis, stumbling walk, low blood pressure and respiratory depression.
Very high levels of magnesium in the blood lead to a severely irregular heartbeat, which can progress to cardiac and respiratory arrest if not treated immediately.
Mild Case Treatment
Mild cases of magnesium overload can often be treated with intravenous calcium. If a patient is being treated with magnesium therapy, discontinuing therapy usually restores proper magnesium balance unless he has a kidney disorder.
Severe Case Treatment
Dialysis is used for severely high blood levels of magnesium or for people who also have kidney dysfunction. The patient may need respiratory and cardiac support as well.