Dangerously low potassium levels warning signs and symptoms | Health

Potassium is an important electrolyte in the body and is responsible for the function of muscles, nerves, and the heart. Very low levels of potassium are known as hypokalemia and can lead to dangerous consequences as a person may even feel too weak to move their body, become paralyzed, faint, or have an irregular heartbeat. Vomiting, diarrhea or the use of laxatives can lead to low potassium levels while certain medications such as diuretics commonly used to treat high blood pressure can also remove potassium along with excess sodium and water. excess from the urine. (Also read: 5 great salt substitutes to reduce heart disease risk and add flavor to food)

With hypokalemia, the amount of potassium in the blood is too low (Shutterstock)
With hypokalemia, the amount of potassium in the blood is too low (Shutterstock)

In hypokalemia, the amount of potassium in the blood is too low. Normal potassium levels are between 3.5 and 5.2 mEq/L (3.5 to 5.2 mmol/L). Anything lower than 3 mEq/L (3 mmol/L) can be considered severe hypokalemia. Although mild cases of hypokalemia have no symptoms, in cases where potassium levels are dangerously low, one must seek medical attention.

Causes of low potassium levels

“Low potassium levels, also known as hypokalemia, occur when serum potassium levels fall below the normal range of 3.5-5 meq/l. Potassium is one of the major electrolytes in the body. body, has a direct role in the normal functioning of heart muscle, skeletal muscle, and bowel function.Low potassium levels can lead to disorders of these functions due to its role in normal functioning. normal cells,” said Dr. Kamal Verma, Senior Consultant, Department of Internal Medicine, Amrita Hospital. Faridabad.

“A significant drop in potassium levels, especially in people with heart disease, can lead to an irregular heartbeat. This can make you feel dizzy or faint. Low potassium levels can even cause your heart to malfunction. you stop beating Potassium is needed to keep your muscles, nerve cells and heart working properly Potassium is also needed for healthy digestion and bone health. This vital function of the body.Low levels of potassium in the body can cause irregular heartbeats, muscle weakness and even paralysis over time,” said Dr. Puneet Bhuwania, Consultant Nephrologist & Physician Transplant doctor at Wockhardt Hospital, Mira Street.

Symptoms of low potassium

The signs and symptoms of hypokalemia depend on the severity of the hypokalemia. Mild cases are usually asymptomatic, i.e. when potassium is 3-3.5 meq/l, or unless the patient is elderly or has another serious medical problem such as chronic kidney disease or heart failure. Symptoms usually appear when the serum K concentration falls below 3.0 meq/l.

Dr Bhuwania explains the symptoms of hypokalemia in detail:

– Nervous: Muscle spasms and weakness of the extremities, especially in the lower extremities; can cause paralysis like state.

– Digestion: Constipation and abdominal distension, nausea and vomiting.

– Body fatigue and muscle pain

Cardiovascular: Low blood pressure, palpitations due to irregular heartbeat associated with cardiac and ventricular arrhythmias

– Respiratory muscle weakness and in severe cases, respiratory failure.

Causes of low potassium levels

Reduce intake – less commonly seen, i.e. under conditions such as extreme hunger and fasting.

Acute diarrhea, persistent or recurrent vomiting, excessive renal dehydration, medication – diuretics (usually used to treat hypertension and heart failure), excess laxative use to treat constipation.

Excessive sweating, especially after intense physical activity in high temperatures.

Treatment of hypokalemia

  • Potassium-rich diet: Fruits such as bananas and oranges, green leafy vegetables, potatoes and kiwis.
  • Take oral potassium supplements as advised by your doctor.
  • Patients may require hospitalization in cases of severe hypokalemia at the discretion of the treating physician.

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