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- Patient Comments: Low Potassium (Hypokalemia) - Diagnosis
- Patient Comments: Low Potassium - Symptoms and Signs
- Patient Comments: Low Potassium (Hypokalemia) - Treatment
- Patient Comments: Low Potassium (Hypokalemia) - Prevention
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What are the symptoms of low potassium?
Potassium affects the way neuromuscular cells discharge energy (depolarize) and then regenerate (repolarize) that energy to be able to fire again. When potassium levels are low, the cells cannot repolarize and are unable to fire repeatedly, and muscles and nerves may not function normally. The effects of low potassium include may cause the following symptoms:
How is low potassium diagnosed?
Potassium levels in the blood may be easily measured by routine blood tests.
Low potassium is often a potential complication of medication. For example, patients with high blood pressure who are being treated with diuretics such as hydrochlorothiazide (Hydrodiuril) or furosemide (Lasix) often have their potassium levels monitored.
Patients who become ill with vomiting and diarrhea, may develop dehydration and weakness. Part of the patient evaluation may include having their electrolyte levels tested in order to determine whether body potassium losses may need to be replaced.
There can be electrocardiogram (EKG, ECG) changes associated with low potassium, and sometimes the diagnosis of low potassium is made incidentally by finding the characteristic "U" waves on the EKG tracing. In severe cases, hypokalemia can lead to dangerous disturbances in heart rhythm (dysrhythmia).