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HIV Blood Tests - Serum Electrolytes

Making Sure Everything is in Balance


Updated June 11, 2014

Serum electrolytes are substances that circulate in the blood and control such things as cardiac function and muscle contraction. They are one set of many HIV blood tests typically run at any given trip to your doctor. This HIV blood test measures the four most common electrolytes and two measures of kidney function.

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  • Sodium (Na+)
    Sodium is primarily responsible for maintaining osmotic pressure. In other words, it maintains intracellular and extracellular fluid levels in the body. An increased serum sodium is present in states of dehydration as a result of diarrhea or vomiting. Low sodium levels usually are a result of too much water in the body.

    Normal values: 135 - 145

  • Potassium (K+)
    Potassium is a major component in cardiac function. Even small changes in Potassium can cause abnormal cardiac arrhythmias, affecting cardiac function. Too much potassium in the blood is usually caused by poor kidney function and can cause abnormal and sometimes fatal abnormalities in the heart rhythm. Low potassium levels are usually the result of potassium loss from excessive urination or from vomiting. A potassium level that is too low can cause abnormal heart rhythms.

    Normal values: 3.5 - 5.0

  • Chloride (Cl-)
    In combination with sodium, chloride maintains fluid levels by regulating osmotic pressure in the blood. An elevated chloride usually results from abnormal kidney function. A chloride level below normal usually results from excessive vomiting or diarrhea.

    Normal values: 100 - 106

  • Bicarbonate (HCO3-)
    The serum bicarbonate is the major buffer in the body, helping to maintain the proper blood pH. Proper blood pH is essential to life.

    Normal values: 35 - 45

  • Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN)
    Urea is a waste product resulting from protein metabolism. It is made in the liver and carried via the blood to the kidneys where it is excreted. An elevated BUN can indicate kidney dysfunction or poor blood circulation to the kidneys.

    Normal values: 8 - 25

  • Creatinine (CR)
    Creatinine is a waste product formed when muscle tissue uses energy sources. It is carried to the kidneys via the blood and excreted from the body. Elevated levels can indicate kidney dysfunction.

    Normal values: 0.6 - 1.5

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