Low Potassium (Hypokalemia)
Hypokalemia means that the potassium levels in the blood are abnormally low. Potassium is a mineral that the body needs to function properly. Muscle activity, cell nourishment absorption, and neural impulse transmission are all aided by it. It is crucial for the cells in the heart. It also keeps the blood pressure from being too high. Potassium is essential for electrical information to be transmitted between cells in the body. It is required for the proper function of neurons and muscle cells.
Normally, the blood potassium level is between 3.6 and 5.2 mmol/L. A potassium level of less than 2.5 mmol/L is potentially fatal and requires prompt medical attention.
The kidneys may be harmed by low potassium and the person may feel the need to urinate more often. Individuals could be thirsty as well as a result of low potassium levels.
The effects of low potassium can also be seen on muscles. Muscle aches and pains may arise as a consequence of physical activity. Severe muscular weakness may lead to paralysis and respiratory failure in certain people as a consequence of potassium deficiency.
Potassium shortage may develop if a person does not consume enough potassium via their diet or if they lose too much potassium through prolonged diarrhea or vomiting.
A blood test will be ordered by the doctor to determine whether or not you have hypokalemia. The primary care physician will also examine the blood pressure since low potassium levels may sometimes affect the blood pressure. If they suspect you have an arrhythmia, they may want to perform an EKG.
Hypokalemia (low potassium levels) may be brought on by a variety of circumstances. Increased urination caused by prescription drugs that encourage urination is the most prevalent cause of elevated potassium loss in urine. Individuals with high blood pressure or heart disease are regularly administered these drugs known as water pills or diuretics.
Excess potassium loss from the digestive tract may also be caused by vomiting, diarrhea, or a combination of the two. Potassium deficiency is most usually the consequence of insufficient potassium intake in the diet.
Following are some of the low potassium causes leading to hypokalemia:
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Chronic kidney disease
- Excessive sweating
- Deficiency of folic acid
The following syndromes are also associated with the low levels of potassium in the blood:
- Gitelman syndrome
- Liddle syndrome
- Cushing’s syndrome
- Fanconi syndrome
- Bartter syndrome
Certain drugs like insulin may result in an increase in potassium transport from the circulation to the cells, leading to hypokalemia. However, unless another condition is concurrently causing potassium loss, these medications often cause relatively transient hypokalemia when used as prescribed. Laxatives also cause decreased potassium levels by increasing the potassium loss in urine.
The following are some instances of low potassium symptoms that need to be addressed:
The most significant consequence of very low potassium levels is irregular heart rhythms i.e. arrhythmias.
In general, the body can maintain normal potassium levels as long as the food it consumes has enough potassium. The body is capable of adjusting when it loses potassium as a result of a short sickness. If your potassium loss persists, it is critical to consult the doctor.
A blood test is often used to diagnose low potassium levels in the body. Your doctor will conduct a simple blood test to determine your serum potassium levels. A normal potassium range in humans is between 3.6 and 5.2 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L). Hypokalemia is diagnosed when a blood test reveals a potassium level below the usual range.
The underlying reason for low potassium should also be addressed, which may include additional medical assessments, a review of dietary history, and an assessment of drugs or medical conditions contributing to the imbalance. Accurate diagnosis is required to establish the best treatment and address the underlying cause of low potassium levels.
Low potassium treatment focuses on diagnosing and eradicating the underlying cause, which may include potassium supplements. Consult your doctor or healthcare professional before beginning to use potassium supplements. Potassium supplements may help you receive enough levels of the mineral. Potassium may need to be given intravenously in certain circumstances. If your hypokalemia is caused by another medical condition, your doctor will address that issue as well. The doctor may advise you to stop taking diuretics if you have low potassium levels as a side effect.
The foods that help in treating hypokalemia by providing potassium include the following:
- Kiwi fruit
When To See A Doctor
If you have low potassium levels as a consequence of an illness or therapy, a blood test will disclose the low potassium level. Low potassium levels create isolated symptoms such as muscular cramps if you are otherwise healthy and in great condition.
Those who are experiencing signs of low potassium should seek medical help. If you have symptoms of severe hypokalemia, such as muscular paralysis, abnormal heart rhythms, or trouble breathing, you should seek medical help right once.
This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have concerns about low potassium or any other medical condition, please see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment suggestions.