Low potassium (Hypokalemia)
Potassium insufficiency can happen if a person consumes insufficient amounts of the mineral through diet or loses too much of it through prolonged vomiting or diarrhea. Symptoms can include high blood pressure, constipation, renal troubles, muscle weakness, exhaustion, and heart problems, depending on the severity of the deficiency.
To function, your body needs potassium. It is one of the minerals that are vital for good health. It controls your body’s fluid balance, keeps your electrolyte system functioning properly, decreases blood pressure, and lessens your risk of stroke.
Balance is important when it comes to potassium, though. Hyperkalemia, or having too much potassium in the body, can result in weakness, exhaustion, loss of muscle function, and delayed heartbeat. Hypokalemia, or low potassium levels, can result in respiratory failure and paralysis as well as muscular spasms, heart palpitations, and cramps.
Knowing the signs of low potassium and what might be causing it is important since low potassium can lead to major health issues like high blood pressure and kidney stones.
Symptoms of low potassium
Hypokalemia frequently goes unnoticed until it is severe and the potassium level has fallen below 3.0 mEq/L.
Individuals who are moderately deficient in potassium may experience:
- Muscle tremor
- An overall sense of unease
- Twitches in muscles
- Muscle pain
- Muscle tremor
- Irregular heartbeats or palpitations
- Kidney issues
- Nausea, vomiting, and a loss of appetite
- Constipation and bloating
- Feeling tingly or numb
- Elevated blood pressure
What appears as low potassium?
Blood potassium levels below 3.5 mEq/L are considered low; values below 2.5 mEq/L can be deadly. According to a 2018 clinical update, the range of normal potassium levels for most persons is between 3.5 and 5.0 mEq per liter (mEq/L).
What cause Low Potassium?
There are various possible causes of low potassium. Some conditions, medications, alcohol misuse, strenuous exercise, and nutritional deficiencies can all contribute to hypokalemia.
Diseases of the Adrenal Gland
Aldosterone, a hormone made by the adrenal glands, aids in controlling the body’s water-to-salt ratio. Hyperaldosteronism and other adrenal gland diseases encourage hyperkalemia. High blood pressure and low potassium levels are brought on by this disease, which encourages the production of aldosterone in excess.
Noncancerous tumors that develop in the adrenal glands have the potential to cause hyperaldosteronism. If you experience abrupt hypertension, muscle spasms, numbness, weakness, etc., your doctor may suspect the condition.
Hypokalemia may also result from congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), primarily as a result of the drugs used to manage the illness. The contrary is caused by other conditions that are similar to them because they affect the development of hyperkalemia or high potassium levels.
In addition to potassium imbalance, additional health problems involving your adrenal glands include hypertension, diabetes, and even depression. Examine your adrenal glands’ hormone production to determine their state of health.
While some of the chronic conditions on the list of causes of low potassium have a tangential relationship to hypokalemia, others can have a significant impact on severity.
Hypokalemia, for instance, has been linked to diabetic ketoacidosis, a serious and sometimes fatal consequence of diabetes that results in your blood becoming overly acidic. This may be related to the actual ailment and the associated treatments.
Moreover, low potassium levels are frequently seen in metabolic alkalosis, which is defined by elevated body pH values. Extreme sodium absorption can cause metabolic alkalosis, which alters potassium levels and results in hypokalemia.
Since potassium builds up in the blood, chronic renal illness will most likely result in hyperkalemia (high potassium in the blood), but a number of medical diseases may have the reverse effect. Just as low potassium levels might result in renal disease, health issues affecting your kidney functions can also lead to hypokalemia.
For instance, excessive potassium excretion may result from frequent urination brought on by an illness (kaliuresis). If unattended, it could exacerbate issues with your glomerular filtration, where waste products cannot be removed from your system.
Moreover, renal function is severely disturbed when hypokalemia develops. For instance, hypokalemia and other electrolyte abnormalities are promoted by Bartter Syndrome, a hereditary renal tubular condition.
Digestive (Bowel) disorders
Hypokalemia is brought on by gastrointestinal function loss, which also affects fluid and salt balance and lowers electrolyte levels. This is because typical digestive issues affect how well potassium is absorbed by the intestinal tract.
As a result, conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, two forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), can contribute to low potassium levels. These illnesses cause severe diarrhea and persistent vomiting.
Hypokalemia can also result from eating disorders like bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. In fact, it is thought to be the most significant effect of the aforementioned illnesses. Heart arrhythmias, muscle wasting, and cardiomyopathy brought on by severe hypokalemia can be deadly.
A few medications
Diuretics are medications that cause the body to rid itself of salts like sodium. They are often referred to as water pills because it causes you to urinate more. Yet when you urinate regularly, you also lose potassium and other electrolytes in addition to salt.
Furosemide, chlorthalidone, and hydrochlorothiazide are a few well-known diuretics that can reduce potassium. The same negative effects on potassium levels are caused by mannitol, high-dose penicillin, and glucocorticoids.
Electrolyte testing may be advised if you take these medications for a prolonged period of time, especially if you show signs of diseases such hypokalemia. In light of this, be sure to inform your healthcare provider of any negative effects brought on by the medication.
Heavy alcohol consumption
If you often consume alcohol, you should think about getting a blood test for your electrolytes because persistent alcoholism can cause serious electrolyte imbalances, such as hypokalemia. In fact, patients who regularly use alcohol in excess often have severe hypokalemia.
Moreover, a case study from 2021 demonstrates that excessive alcohol use increases one’s tolerance for low potassium levels, causing one to ignore any symptoms of hypokalemia. Thyrotoxic periodic paralysis (TPP) can then develop as a result, especially in people who have hyperthyroidism and thyrotoxicosis.
Low Potassium in the Diet
Low dietary sources of potassium make it unlikely for hypokalemia to occur because many common foods including potatoes, chicken, beans, bananas, oranges, tomatoes, salmon, etc. are good sources of the mineral. Even if you have nutrient malabsorption brought on by Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or another IBD, it’s not entirely impossible.
Intense exercise or training
Your body may not have enough potassium after vigorous activity. Even glucose that has been stored in the muscle (glycogen) must be digested to meet the increased demand when the muscle is working hard. Your muscle cells lose potassium and other electrolytes throughout this process. You might consequently experience nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, exhaustion, weakness, and muscle spasms.
You will lose more potassium through excessive sweating the harder you work out. When you exercise in sweltering heat, your water content decreases, making the situation worse.
Excessive Sweating (Hyperhidrosis)
Together with pee, sweat is a method for potassium to escape the body. Your potassium level and other electrolytes, such as sodium, won’t be impacted by natural sweating. But, if it occurs frequently, you run the danger of developing hypokalemia.
Sweating can be brought on by excessive physical exercise or extremely hot conditions. A condition known as hyperhidrosis, in which nerve signal transmission is compromised and your sweat glands become overactive, may also be to blame.
High-potassium foods include:
- Baked potatoes
- Kidney beans
- Oranges/Orange juice
- Peanut butter
- Wheat germ
Key Points :
As you proceed with treatment, your provider will likely ask you to keep track of your symptoms. You could do this in a variety of ways, For example, INIGIMA Digital Screening plays a very important role if you are suffering from multiple complications like diabetes, blood pressure, heart issues and obesity patient. It helps to maintain good health and achieve a longer life. Book a session with an expert now
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