Diabetic patients frequently develop a constellation of electrolyte disorders. These disturbances are particularly common in decompensated diabetics, especially in the context of diabetic ketoacidosis or nonketotic hyperglycemic hyperosmolar syndrome. These patients are markedly potassium-, magnesium- and phosphate-depleted. Diabetes mellitus (DM) is linked to both hypo- and hyper-natremia reflecting the coexistence of hyperglycemia-related mechanisms, which tend to change serum sodium to opposite directions. The most important causal factor of chronic hyperkalemia in diabetic individuals is the syndrome of hyporeninemic hypoaldosteronism. Impaired renal function, potassium-sparing drugs, hypertonicity and insulin deficiency are also involved in the development of hyperkalemia. This article provides an overview of the electrolyte disturbances occurring in DM and describes the underlying mechanisms. This insight should pave the way for pathophysiology-directed therapy, thus contributing to the avoidance of the several deleterious effects associated with electrolyte disorders and their treatment.
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