Drugs That Cause Electrolyte Imbalance

Electrolytes, such as sodium, calcium and potassium, are important minerals in the body responsible for maintaining acid levels, fluid balance, and muscle functioning. A number of factors can lead to electrolyte imbalance, such as excessive sweating, medical conditions, and medications 3. Symptoms of electrolyte imbalance depend upon the specific mineral affected but can include fatigue, muscle cramping, weakness, irregular heartbeat, confusion and blood pressure changes 13.


The Healthline website explains that corticosteroids act on hormones produced in the brain called mineralocorticoids. These hormones are responsible for regulating electrolyte levels in the body and determining when the body secretes or conserves minerals such as sodium. Synthetic corticosteroids are absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and have salt-retaining properties, further risking potential electrolyte imbalance 1. This type of medication elevates sodium levels, a condition known as hypernatremia, which can accompany excessive fluid loss and dehydration. Corticosteroids that may cause electrolyte imbalance include cortisone acetate and hydrocortisone. Electrolyte imbalance from use of corticosteroid medications can cause convulsions, twitching or muscle spasms.

Birth Control Pills

Medications used to prevent pregnancy and treat conditions related to menstruation in women may cause elevated potassium levels, also called hyperkalemia. Increased potassium levels can also upset the balance of sodium in the body. Bayer Health Care Pharmaceuticals warns that the medications drospirenone and ethinyl estradiol contain a hormone that increases potassium levels too much and causes side effects of diarrhea and weakness. These medications also have a diuretic effect. This effect increases the risk of dehydration, while simultaneously decreasing total body potassium. Severe effects from depleted potassium include difficulties in nerve and muscle control, or cardiac arrest.


Diuretics remove fluids from the body, by increasing urination. Diuretics may be used for the treatment of swelling in the limbs or to reduce high blood pressure. Diuretic medications not only release fluids but also rid the body of excess sodium and potassium. The Cleveland Clinic Foundation notes that diuretics such as furosemide and bumetanide cause electrolyte imbalance 1. Furosemide works to decrease high blood pressure by increasing the amount of salt and water the kidneys remove from the blood. Bumetanide has the same action, although this medication is prescribed to reduce fluid retention resulting from other medical conditions, such as edema or heart disease.

Antibiotics and Antifungals

Antibiotic and antifungal medications are used for the treatment of various infections. A 2009 study in the "Nature Review of Nephrology" notes that certain antibiotics cause a range of electrolyte imbalances 4. Depleted potassium levels and dehydration are associated with use of these medications, including amphotericin B, trimethoprim and demeclocycline. Amphotericin B is used to treat fungal infections. Trimethoprim is a common urinary tract infection medication, and demeclocycline treats bacterial infections associated with the skin, face and genitals.