Low Potassium and its Causes

Low Potassium and its Causes


We know by now that we need to eat the right foods, need to work out, and do stuff that is healthy for us. Because maintaining good health does not happen by accident, it requires work and smart lifestyle choices. But sometimes when we wake up at 6 am to hit the gym before work or shunning the donuts in breakfast, it’s easy to lose sight of for what are we doing all these. So here are some top articles choices that can keep you motivated to lead a healthy lifestyle and keep diseases at bay.

Low Potassium and its Causes

Low potassium level in blood (known as hypokalemia) is not an uncommon health problem and potentially serious problem that need emergency management at times, especially when potassium become critically low in blood. Potassium is an important electrolyte that is essential for proper functioning of muscles (including heart muscles, which makes it highly important for proper functioning of heart) and nerve cells. Hence, lower than normal blood level of potassium can be great problem and need to be corrected immediately.

Normal blood level of potassium is 3.5 to 5.2 millimoles per liter (mmol/L). Normally 98% of potassium is intracellular (inside cells) and remaining is extracellular (outside cells). However, low extracellular potassium (including blood) can disturb the intracellular potassium too. A lower than 2.5 millimoles per liter (mmol/L) potassium can be life threatening medical condition and need emergency management by intravenous potassium administration.

What are the causes of low potassium (hypokalemia)?

Hypokalemia can be due to various causes and include,

  • Excess loss of potassium in urine due to use of diuretic (water pill) or due to medical advice to drink plenty of water/liquid. This is the most common cause of hypokalemia.
  • Vomiting and diarrhea cause hypokalemia. It can be severe if both vomiting and diarrhea is present in a patient.
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis, a condition due to very high blood glucose level
  • Excessive sweating
  • Excessive use of laxatives, or laxative abuse
  • Excess alcohol intake, especially habitual excess alcohol consumption
  • Folic acid deficiency
  • Primary aldosteronism
  • Rarely due to use of certain antibiotics
  • Inadequate potassium in diet, a rare possibility

How to know if one is suffering from hypokalemia?

If hypokalemia is severe, the person will be very weak and even unable to walk due to muscle cramp and muscle weakness and it will be obvious that the individual need immediate medical intervention. However, if hypokalemia mild, you may have only few vague symptoms and it becomes difficult to know you are suffering from hypokalemia. However, one should be familiar with symptoms of hypokalemia, as the condition is fairly common. Symptoms include,

  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Mild increase in blood pressure
  • Fatigue
  • ECG abnormality (your doctor can identify it)
  • In case of severe hypokalemia the symptoms include, muscle cramp, tremor, muscle weakness (these are due to involvement of skeletal muscles), constipation (due to involvement of smooth muscles), flaccid paralysis, hyporeflexia, respiratory depression etc.
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