Hypokalemia: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prognosis, Complications, Prevention

Hypokalemia– Potassium is an extremely important mineral in our body which is essential for proper functioning of the cells in the body. Excess potassium is discarded from the body by the kidneys but there are certain pathological conditions where there is a depletion of potassium in the body. This pathological condition is called Hypokalemia.


In this article, we will read about:

What Is Hypokalemia?

Hypokalemia is a medical disorder in which the level of potassium in blood becomes lower that what is normal for the body. Potassium is required by the cells of the body for appropriate functioning. Potassium enters the body through the food that one eats. One of the functions of the kidneys is to excrete excess potassium through urine so as to maintain an adequate balance of potassium in the body.

How Is Hypokalemia Caused?

Some Of The Causes For Hypokalemia Are:

Symptoms Of Hypokalemia

If there is a slight depreciation in the level of potassium, then it may not lead to any significant symptom but if there are symptoms then they include the following:

  • Dysrhythmias, especially in people with heart problems
  • Constipation
  • Palpitations
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Muscle damage
  • Muscle spasms
  • Sensation of numbness or tingling

In case, there is a significant drop in potassium levels, it may cause the heart to stop.

How Is Hypokalemia Diagnosed?

In order to diagnose Hypokalemia the treating physician will order blood tests to look at the potassium level in the body. Other tests may be also ordered to look at the levels of the following:

  • Glucose
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Sodium
  • Phosphorous
  • Thyroid

What Are The Treatments For Hypokalemia?

If the level of potassium is only mildly reduced then potassium supplements will be prescribed but in case if the levels are severely depreciated then intravenous supplementation of potassium may be given.

Apart from medications, diet rich in potassium is also essential for treatment of Hypokalemia. Some of the foods rich in potassium are:

  • Baked potato
  • Banana
  • Carrots
  • Milk
  • Orange
  • Peanut butter
  • Beans
  • Salmon
  • Spinach
  • Tomato

What Is The Prognosis And Complications Of Hypokalemia?

Intake of potassium supplements usually treats Hypokalemia but severe forms of Hypokalemia can cause potentially serious heart problems which can be sometimes fatal.

One other complication associated with Hypokalemia is paralysis which can also be potentially life threatening. This condition arises usually due to excessive thyroid hormone in blood. This condition is called as Thyrotoxic Periodic Paralysis.

What Are The Ways To Prevent Hypokalemia?

To prevent Hypokalemia, as stated above, intake of a diet rich in potassium is vital.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:September 19, 2023

Recent Posts

Related Posts