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Low Potassium Levels: Symptoms, causes, and treatment options

Low potassium levels can cause numerous health problems. It is therefore essential to stay informed about the potential risks of low potassium levels and take steps to address them to maintain your overall health.

India TV Health Desk Edited By: India TV Health Desk New Delhi Published on: March 28, 2023 14:54 IST
Low Potassium Levels
Image Source : FREEPIK Low Potassium Levels: Symptoms, causes, and treatment options

Potassium is an important substance in your body that helps your muscles, nerves, and heart work properly. When your potassium levels get too low, it can cause serious problems like feeling weak, being unable to move, passing out, or having an irregular heartbeat. Vomiting, diarrhea, or using certain medicines can make your potassium levels go down.

Low levels of potassium may not cause any symptoms in mild cases, but if the levels become dangerously low, it's important to seek medical help right away.

Causes of low potassium levels

Several factors affect the level of potassium in our bodies. One of the less common causes is a decrease in intake, which can happen in conditions like starvation or excessive fasting.

Another cause is the loss of potassium through the digestive system, which can occur during episodes of acute diarrhea or persistent and recurrent vomiting. The kidneys can also eliminate excess potassium from the body, leading to low levels. 

Certain medications, such as diuretics, which are commonly given to manage high blood pressure and heart failure, can also cause potassium levels to drop. Excessive use of laxatives to relieve constipation can also be a contributing factor. 

Additionally, excessive sweating during intense physical activity in high temperatures can lead to a loss of potassium. It's important to be aware of these potential causes and seek medical attention if low potassium levels become a concern.

Symptoms of low potassium

The symptoms or signs depend upon the severity of hypokalaemia. Here are some common symptoms that indicate low potassium levels:  

- Neurological: Low potassium levels affect the nervous system and cause muscle cramps and weakness, especially in the lower limbs. In severe cases, it can lead to a state similar to paralysis.

- Gastrointestinal: Low potassium levels cause constipation, abdominal swelling, nausea, and vomiting.
- Cardiac: it also affects the heart, causing symptoms such as low blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, and palpitations. 
- In severe cases of low potassium levels, it can weaken the muscles involved in breathing, which can lead to respiratory failure.

Treatment of low potassium

Potassium rich diet: One way to address low potassium levels is by incorporating potassium-rich foods into your diet. Some examples of such foods include fruits like bananas and oranges, green leafy vegetables, potatoes, and kiwi.

Oral Supplements: In some cases, a doctor may recommend taking oral potassium supplements to address low potassium levels.

Hospitalisation: If a person experiences severe hypokalemia, hospitalization may be necessary based on the decision of their treating physician.

It is important to be aware of the potential causes of low potassium levels, such as decreased intake, excessive loss through the digestive system or kidneys, certain medications, and excessive sweating and resort to the correct treatment methods immediately. Experts recommend seeking medical attention if low potassium levels become a concern to avoid any potentially serious consequences.

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