Low Potassium - Symptoms and Signs

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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:

  • muscle weakness,
  • muscle aches,
  • muscle cramps, and
  • palpitations (irregular heartbeats).
Return to Low Potassium (Hypokalemia)

See what others are saying

Comment from: warbotrain, 65-74 Male (Patient) Published: March 19

I was hiking with friends on Saturday which was all uphill and pretty steep. About 500-600 feet elevation gain in about a mile. Anyway, near the top I started feeling faint and shaky and told my friends I had to sit down. My heart was racing, I felt nauseous and they said I was having a hard time talking with them. I kept trying to get enough oxygen but never got enough. My fingers were tingling. After 35 minutes of this (and standing up and trying to walk again but feeling faint every time and wobbly-kneed). So they insisted on calling 911 over my objections. This resulted in emergency medical people climbing up the trail to get me. They called in a helicopter and it found a small patch to land on and they flew me down to the roadway where an ambulance was waiting to take me to the hospital. I was in the ER for 5 hours (by then feeling just fine) but they did heart and blood tests, etc. and admitted me for overnight observation. Fortunately, my heart tests came back fine, I felt fine, and the doctor said my potassium level was extremely low and I was severely dehydrated when I arrived in the ER. So they blamed the incident on those two factors. I have been told to eat bananas, etc., and check in with my physician. I take HCTZ 25 mg. per day and Paxil 10 mg. They didn't worry about the Paxil but did advise that I consult my doctor about changing my HCTZ (which has handled my hypertension fabulously for over ten years). End of my story -- scary but it came out OK.

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Comment from: 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: April 08

My cardiologist put me on Florinef to control my low blood pressure. About two months later my legs began to cramp as if I had run a long distance. My doctor checked my potassium and it was normal. Three months later I had a sinus infection but it felt like I had the flu! My heart was racing and my entire body hurt. A few days later the intense leg cramps returned and I was unable to use my fingers or hands. By that night I was not able to walk. My potassium was a 1.7 when I arrived at the emergency room and my EKG was abnormal. I spent three nights in critical care for my hypokalemia. I took oral supplements every 4 hours and eventually had to get a PICC line as the IV did not bring my levels up. It has been a year and I just had my first normal potassium test but it was only 3.7.

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