Electrolytes Made Easy: Learn More with Picmonic for Nursing

We understand that there are a lot of electrolytes to remember: sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride, and the one we are focusing specifically on right here, magnesium. What happens when magnesium levels are out of balance in the body? What’s the difference between hypomagnesemia and hypermagnesemia?

Note: when you click on the links, you’ll go directly to the Picmonics — our visual study aids — to learn more about the topic.

1. Memorize the normal lab values

Magnesium: 1.5-2.5 mEq/L

Good, got that down. Now, what does magnesium do in the body? Well, it relaxes. So when we think of someone having too much magnesium in the body (ie: hypermagnesemia) what do you expect to see?

2. Too much Magnesium (hypermagnesemia)

When someone is in a state of hypermagnesemia, their magnesium levels will be above 2.5 mEq/L. Because of the excess magnesium, the person will have decreased deep tendon reflexes, decreased respirations, decreased heart rate, decreased blood pressure…do you see the theme here?

So, now that you understand what happens in the body when there is too much magnesium, it’s easy to guess what will happen when there is not enough.

3. Too little Magnesium (hypomagnesemia)

In hypomagnesemia, or a magnesium level below 1.5 mEq/L, everything is increased, or in an excited state. Think: increased deep tendon reflexes, increased heart rate, neuromuscular irritability and the risk of seizures.

4. Treatment

Now that we have two electrolyte imbalances down, let’s tie-in some pharm! If a patient is in a state of hypomagnesemia, what would be the obvious treatment here? Giving them some magnesium, right? Enter: magnesium sulfate. So think here: magnesium sulfate’s purpose is to relax the body, and is often given for preterm labor contractions or preeclampsia. So what’s the high-yield side effect to consider when administering this drug?

Ding, Ding, Ding! Decreased deep tendon reflexes!

And why? Think this one through. Too much magnesium sulfate would push the hypomagnesemia patient into a state of hypermagnesemia, and remember, a side effect of hypermagnesemia is decreased deep tendon reflexes. Lightbulb moment! So there you have it! You’ve learned two electrolyte imbalances and a drug. Easy-peasy!

For more details, be sure to check out any of the Playlists within Picmonic for Nursing, our ready-made “Nursing Study Guides” (such as Fluid, Electrolyte and Acid-Base Imbalances), where our proven visual mnemonics will really get those concepts burned into your brain!



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Marlee Liberman

Marlee Liberman, RN, Master Nursing Scholar

As a registered nurse, Marlee understands the struggles that nursing school throws at you – not to mention the overwhelming pressure preparing for the NCLEX®! Marlee brings a unique skill set and perspective to Picmonic with her previous degree in broadcast journalism, her creativity in video production, and her wandering nomad lifestyle. Her blend of talents provides her with the knack for simplifying complicated concepts and demystifying the world of nursing.

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