Many of us may have heard of the anion gap, but what exactly is it? The anion gap is the difference between cations’ concentration (positive charged ions) and the concentration of anions (negative charged ions) in a solution. This difference is usually measured in mEq/L. When the difference is too high or too low, it can indicate a problem with the kidneys or other organs.
The symptoms of a low anion gap depend on the underlying cause. Symptoms may include thirst, dry mouth, tiredness, decreased urination, or dark-colored urine. If the cause is renal failure, symptoms may include puffiness around the eyes, skin that retains fluid, shortness of breath, or fatigue. In some cases, the symptoms of a low anion gap may include muscle weakness or cramping, headache, dizziness, or nausea.
If a doctor suspects a low anion gap, they will likely order some tests to confirm their suspicions. These tests may include a comprehensive metabolic panel, a complete blood count, arterial blood, and erythrocyte sedimentation rate. Treatment for low anion gap typically involves replenishing fluids or supporting kidney or liver function. It is essential to see a healthcare provider to receive proper diagnosis and treatment.
Low Albumin Levels
Did you know that low albumin levels or hypoalbuminemia can cause a condition called low anion gap?
The anion gap is a measurement of electrolyte concentrations in your blood. The cations include sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, while the anions include chloride, bicarbonate, and phosphate. Typically, the concentration of cations is higher than that of anions, so the anion gap is usually positive. However, in hypoalbuminemia, the concentration of anions can exceed that of cations, resulting in a negative anion gap.
Hypoalbuminemia is a condition characterized by low levels of albumin in the blood. Albumin is a protein that helps maintain oncotic pressure, the osmotic pressure that keeps fluid from leaking out of blood vessels.
When oncotic pressure drops due to low albumin levels, fluid begins to leak out of blood vessels and into surrounding tissues as these electrolytes are lost from the blood vessels and into tissues, their concentrations in the blood drop, causing the anion gap to fall. Low albumin levels can cause swelling, fatigue, and weakness. In severe cases, low albumin levels can lead to death. Therefore, treatment for low albumin levels depends on the underlying cause.