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Overview

When anyone has hypokalemia, this means that they have insufficient blood concentrations of potassium. Potassium is a mineral which the body needs to work normally. This assists the activity of the muscles, the cells and the nerves to transmit signals. It is also essential for cells in the heart to work properly. It also helps keep blood pressure from getting too high.

 

Causes

There are many reasons why anyone can have low levels of potassium. It may be that too much potassium leaves the digestive tract. It is usually a symptom of another problem.  People get hypokalemia most often if they have:

  • Excessive Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Kidneys or adrenal glands don’t work well
  • Medication that makes you pee (water pills or diuretics)

It’s possible, but rare, to get hypokalemia from having too little potassium in  diet. Other things sometimes cause it, too, like:

  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Sweating a lot
  • Folic acid deficiency
  • Certain antibiotics
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis (high levels of acids called ketones in your blood)
  • Laxatives taken over a long period of time
  • Some asthma medications
  • Low magnesium
  • Several syndromes can be associated with low potassium, such as:
  • Cushing’s syndrome
  • Gitelman syndrome
  • Bartter syndrome
  • Fanconi syndrome

Women tend to get hypokalemia more often than men.

Symptoms

Once potassium levels fall below a certain level, person might experience:

  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle cramps or twitching
  • Constipation
  • Arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythms)

The kidneys may be affected by hypokalemia. People may be more often required to go to the bathroom and feel thirsty.

 Muscle problems may occur during exercise. Muscle weakness can lead to paralysis and respiratory failure in severe cases.

Diagnosis

Doctor will ask about the medical history. He would like to know whether the patient had any vomiting or diarrhea disease. 

He would also advise the urine test so that the doctor can verify if you lose potassium.

Since low potassium may affect your blood pressure sometimes, the physician will also check that. If he feels you may have arrhythmia, he may even make an electrocardiogram (EKG). This is one of the most dangerous side effects and can affect  the way your doctor treat the issue.

Treatment

Potassium can get more potassium by taking supplements. Most of these patient can take by mouth. Patassium rich food like bananas, Avocado, Coconut water, watermelon etc.can be taken on advice of your doctor. Potassium  need to be injected by IV in some cases. For instance:

  • If  potassium level is dangerously low
  • If taking supplements don’t raise  potassium levels
  • If  low potassium levels cause abnormal heart rhythms

When hypokalemia is a result of another medical condition, doctor will need to treat that. If anyone has low potassium because of diuretics, he may take off them. Sometimes that makes the condition go away.

Before stopping any drug, always consult with the doctor. In addition, ask the doctor about potassium supplements before taking them. This can cause the body to build up too much potassium, which may cause hyperkalemia.