Hypokalemia - Low Potassium

by Sam Malone


Potassium is a very important mineral for the body. In fact, it should be part of our daily diet because a severe lack of it may give rise to a disease called hypokalemia. This is characterized by low potassium level in the body. This could be deadly at times when not properly and immediately treated. Without potassium, our nerves and muscle cells, including those in the heart, would not be able to function well. Knowing about hypokalemia first and how it works is a simple step to recovery.

There are several causes of hypokalemia, one of which is the manifestation of symptoms of low potassium. Increasing potassium intake is one of the best solutions to control the excessive loss of potassium in the body. There's also too much loss of fluid. Vomiting, diarrhea, perspiration, and medications like diuretics, laxatives, and the antifungal amphotericin B can literally 'wash' away the potassium stored in our body. Other causes include other diseases like diabetes; hypomagnesia, disturbance in electrolytes; and kidney and adrenal glands dysfunction. If hypokalemia runs in your family's medical history, this may also be one of the reasons.

Hypokalemia may be asymptomatic, which means it doesn't exhibit any sign. Some patients express unclear symptoms such as fatigue, muscle weakness, nausea, or some tingling sensation. Symptoms may worsen, however, which can include weak pulse or slow heartbeat. There can also be frequent seizures, an abnormal heart rhythm or serious arrhythmias, constipation, and muscle cramps.

You can determine if you have hypokalemia if you see a doctor and subject yourself to series of tests. These may include getting a sample of your blood to measure your current potassium level. Normal level is usually between 3.5 and 5 mEq/L. Low potassium level suggests you're suffering from the disease. Checking potassium level in your urine sample can help your doctor identify the main cause of your health problem. You may also be advised to undergo an electrocardiogram, which can be EKG or ECG, to determine your heart's electrical activity.

Severe cases of hypokalemia can be treated in a medical facility by using an intravenous potassium. This can also be treated by increasing intake of foods rich in potassium. These include fruits like bananas, tomatoes, spinach, and oranges, and leafy vegetables like potatoes, peas, melons, and beans. You can also drink fluids that can replace lost electrolytes caused by vomiting, diarrhea, or intense exercise; or maintaining some potassium supplements, the dosage of which shall be determined by the doctor. It is essential to always have a regular checkup of potassium levels in your blood if you're drinking diuretics and medications that may contribute to low potassium.

It's not only humans who may suffer from hypokalemia. Some animals too are prone to it, like cats. Common cause is normally old age. It can be hereditary for Burmese kittens, however, if parents have bad genes. Symptoms may include staggering, inability to maintain a heads-up, which can alarmingly droop, and loss of weight. Treatment can include adding potassium tablets into their food.


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