Patient Comments: Low Potassium (Hypokalemia) - Diagnosis

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How was the diagnosis of your low potassium (hypokalemia) established? Submit Your Comment

Comment from: shewhite, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: January 30

I had the flu 3 weeks ago and thought I was having trouble getting over it. I thought I was having trouble adjusting to a new mg of Cymbalta. I thought I had low iron, then I thought I was dehydrated. After 4 days of numbness, tingling, extra tiredness, short windedness, headache, nausea, and heart pounding out of my chest, I went to the emergency room (ER). BNP (B-type natriuretic peptide) was 413, EKG indicated I had a heart attack previously and what looked like fluid on my heart on x-ray, and I was sent to a bigger hospital. I was tested for blood clots, heart attack, thyroid; all came out good. I was 'a little low in potassium' and was given 4 pills over 2 days. I inquired before I was sent home about the potassium and again told it was a little low, but on the low side of normal and I could be one of those who require potassium. I was given 7 pills and told to get bloodwork in 7 days from my primary care physician. If I had not ask about the potassium, I don't think she would have given me a prescription to take home. I wasn't told that the symptoms I had could be from the potassium. The insert from the prescription and searching on google told me that low potassium is my problem. Hopefully there is no underlying issue and I can just take potassium. Listen to your body, it knows more than the doctor how you feel.

Comment from: sunnivara, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: December 01

I ended up in the emergency room (ER) with atrial fibrillation with low potassium at 3.2 according to blood tests. Despite the out-of-normal range and actually being in a state of arrhythmia, the ER doctor did not think I needed to be given any potassium! They did an electrical cardioversion instead. I guess that's much more profitable for them. I'm so disgusted! Don't waste your time on potassium supplements. The amount of actual potassium is so low it's not worth it do to FDA limits. Use a potassium chloride salt substitute instead. A serving of that has almost 6 times what a tablet supplement has. Also, low sodium V8 juice has a good 900 mg dose due to added potassium chloride.

Comment from: jellybeans529, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: August 11

I started having shortness of breath, like I could not get enough air into my lungs. I had just started hormone progesterone 4 months earlier and thought I had too much in my system, which would cause shortness of breath. By the 10th day of shortness of breath, now followed by dizziness, tingling and cold in my hands and feet, and panic, I went to the hospital. EKG, stress test (an awful test by the way), and an echocardiogram showed nothing wrong with my heart and an ultrasound showed no blood clot. The doctor saw my potassium was down to 3.3 so she gave me 40 mg of potassium. Within 30 minutes, I was feeling better and no shortness of breath, just exhausted. I was discharged and went home. The next day, the same symptoms came on again so back to the emergency room I went. The doctor there told me that it was all in my head and to take the anti-anxiety pill he was going to give me and go home. I fought him tooth and nail and told him to draw more blood and look at my potassium levels. He didn't want to but didn't want to fight me either, so my results came back at 3.4 and he insisted that this was normal even though it was out of range. He was adamant that this 3.4 level would not cause any symptoms. I told him I wanted more potassium and I wanted to get back into range. Thirty minutes after giving me the potassium, I was much better. I was discharged and will be going to my primary doctor to get monitored and back on track. If your lab test results are out of range, don't let a doctor tell you that it is normal, you should not be having any symptoms, and it is just anxiety. Any low level can cause all kinds of problems for different people.

Comment from: dhinny, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: June 24

I was admitted in hospital last January 20, due to hypokalemia paralysis. It started with my legs aching and lower extremities cramped. I could no longer raise my legs and my left hand. My blood pressure (BP) was 140/100. My potassium level dropped to 1.7. I was given rapid potassium and an oral pill and been under intensive care. After 4 days of admission I was released from the hospital. The diagnosis was, it was due to my hyperthyroidism. Just a week ago, I was again admitted to the hospital due to shortness of breath and a minor chest pain, my lower extremities got weaker and it ached. I knew my potassium level had dropped again, so I told my mom to immediately bring me to the emergency room. Result showed my potassium level was 1.9. I was again given a rapid potassium of 2 six cycles and an oral pill taken three times a day. This time my lab results were all normal so we can't determine yet what the primary cause is. As soon as my potassium level dropped, my BP rose to 170/100. I was instructed by my doctor to eat banana every day.

Comment from: Bex1974, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: July 08

I have been on chlorthalidone for over a year to help prevent my frequent kidney stones. This spring I caught pneumonia and was on a variety of medications including prednisone. I also had a rapid heartbeat which resulted in a variety of heart tests that turned up negative. A blood test turned up very low potassium levels, hypokalemia. I was told to eat more potassium. I loaded up on bananas and a variety of other foods. A week later, potassium was still low and I was advised to take a potassium supplement. A week later and that was not enough, I was put on a prescription potassium. Two weeks later my potassium was still low and I had to double my prescription. This weekend was the fourth of July and I was very active, more than usual. I started having finger paralysis, unable to move several fingers, several times a day. I also had tingling in my arms, legs, fingers, toes and lips, rapid heartbeat, whole body aches and absolute exhaustion. Seemed to wane a little when taking another potassium tablet. So weird that this has only happened after being on chlorthalidone for a year. I will be contacting the doctor tomorrow, I have to get off of this chlorthalidone!

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Comment from: Deva, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: September 20

Just pretty much had what everyone here has. Low potassium of 3.2 doesn't seem super low when low range is 3.6 but I had pounding heart and sweats. I thought it was anxiety, my blood pressure was 180/97. Nope, it was low potassium. I'm hopeful I can get enough through diet but I was prescribed potassium, so am going to try a little of both. I have to remember that while drinking water is good, it can flush electrolytes from your system so if you work outside and drink a lot of water, beware. I also had terrible leg cramps as a child and never knew that the cause was!

Comment from: Geoff, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: June 12

I have had lower back pain for the last 5 years. MRI showed pinched sciatic nerve. I have high blood pressure with hiatal hernia. Leg cramps at night with heart palpitations keep me awake. Finally a nutritionist said to try potassium gluconate 550 mg. Within a week I was sleeping better at night. My blood pressure has gone down and my leg cramps and back pain are better after three weeks of taking potassium.

Comment from: Denita RN, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: January 03

I had surgery in October 2013 and haven't felt good since. I have had extreme shortness of breath and tachycardia, I told my doctor and was put on Iron for anemia. I went back with same symptoms and was told it would take 4 to 6 weeks, to get better. The surgery was for obstruction, gallbladder and appendix removal and hernia repair (7th surgery in 5 years). I have had diarrhea 10 to 20 times daily since and more of the small intestine was removed. I was supposed to have an EGD (esophagogastroduodenoscopy), to determine what was causing the diarrhea (wrong end if you ask me), so I canceled the procedure and drove myself to the emergency room. Other than severe weakness, shortness of breath and heart rate of 160 with any movement, I really didn't feel bad. I just knew I was unable to return to work and needed answers. I was admitted to the ICU with potassium level less than 0.7, bilateral pulmonary emboli and a massive blood clot in my right leg. The doctors told my family that I was as close to being dead as a person could be - the low potassium had me in constant PVC (premature ventricular contractions) with an irregular heartbeat the pulmonary emboli were causing the severe shortness of breath. After 2 weeks they are still having trouble getting the potassium above 3; the doctor said my body was so depleted, that every time they get it up, the body sucks it into storage, so I am still on IV and potassium replacements. I am finally able to stay awake and feel like I might be able to return to work. I am thankful to still be alive!

Comment from: Marg, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: November 08

I have suffered low potassium since August 2013 and felt really ill and ended up in hospital for a day. I had an ECG, blood tests, etc., all came back normal but for the potassium levels of 3.3. I was told to eat bananas every day for a week and the levels rose. I am on beta blockers, diuretics and other medication. I am also insulin dependent type 2 diabetes. I am still having severe sweating, palpitations, nausea and tiredness. I am due to see a medical consultant next week and hope I can get an answer to what is the actual cause.

Comment from: dicahur, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: May 06

My chiropractor gave me the V8 vegetable juice test. For two months, I had all the symptoms of low/lack of potassium. I was in the hospital for three days with palpitations, muscles spasms, weakness, etc. The results of the EKGs, MRIs, CAT scans, and blood tests came back normal, so they sent me home diagnosed with a bad case of anxiety. Two days later, the spasms got worse, and I couldn't walk or talk. Desperate, I went to see my chiropractor. He gave me a can of V8 vegetable juice. Ten minutes later, I was feeling like new. He said that it was a lack of potassium. It took seven days to get rid of the symptoms, but now I feel much, much better. However, I have noticed that if I do a little bit too much, the twitching and the palpitations tend to come back, but they go away as soon as I drink a big glass of V8 and some raisins. What concerns me the most is that my family doctor does not believe everything was caused by lack of potassium because, according to her, the blood tests show that everything was normal (3.6 mg of potassium). My theory is that 3.6 mg is low for me even though that amount is within the "normal" range for potassium.

Comment from: psuandme53, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: April 23

I had two TIAs (mini strokes) in the course of one month. Upon taking blood in the hospital they found low potassium levels. I started taking potassium pills in the hospital and followed up with my family doctor. It is still low but not as low as it was in the hospital. I couldn't understand why I was so tired and why my legs ached constantly and sometimes my left leg would just go numb and would have a tingling sensation in it. I now take blood tests once a month to monitor my potassium level. It is just as scary to have the low potassium levels as it was to have the two mini strokes. I am 58 years old, and I want to live a lot longer. I am adjusting to this new setback but also taking preventive measures to make sure that I am around to see my grandson graduate from college in about 10 years.

Comment from: toby12, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: January 08

I have had problems with my potassium levels since my early 20s I am now 69. Two years ago a nephrologist told me that I have Gitelman syndrome where the electrolytes, potassium, magnesium, sodium are lost in the urine. V-8 juice has really saved me because I can't take the potassium pills. It took me most of my life to convince the doctors that I was losing my potassium. Gitelman syndrome can start when a person is around 6 years of age, with severe leg cramps, which I had. I believe it is responsible for my heart problems ventricular tachycardia and atrial fibrillation. Find a doctor that specializes in electrolyte issues - it generally falls under kidney issues - my nephrologist is a specialist in electrolyte issues.

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Comment from: kaley3646, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: June 12

I am 32 years old and have been experiencing these very same symptoms. I went to E.R thinking I was having a heart attack got an E.K.G done along with all the other fun tests I really couldn't understand what the problem was. I went to my general doctor and was told to go on insulin for my diabetes and that I have low potassium. I'm laying in bed after an extremely long day (I wake up at 7:30a.m to go to college and at night I work till midnight) and even though I'm tired it's now 2:40 and I still can't sleep because of the pain in my feet and or legs. I really had no idea about low potassium which is bad because I'm doing my general education to major in medical. Thank you VERY much to anyone who posts on here and anyone associated with this being online. Knowledge/Experience is power and it's wonderful to hear firsthand what people go through.

Comment from: Tami, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: June 12

I just got back from the emergency room. For about a week I have been having heart palpitations and a racing heart. I thought I was having panic attacks for the past week. I just did not feel normal. I actually felt like I was going crazy. I didn't know what was wrong with me but I knew that I wasn't me. This morning while walking the dog my legs felt like they were detached from my body. I took a shower and thought of getting ready for work. Instead I asked my husband to take me to the emergency room. They were very thorough. They performed various blood work, hooked me up to a heart monitor, gave me a chest x-ray. They discovered that I may be dehydrated so they gave me fluids. More importantly they found that my potassium was low so they gave me some pills and a prescription and released me. I do not know what caused this. I have been taking blood pressure medicine for some time so I don't know how it could be related to the diuretic effect of those. The only other thing that has been different in the past week before all this started was that I was taking OTC allergy medicine for several days. I have a follow up appointment with my primary to discuss this more.

Comment from: Luna, 45-54 Female Published: December 01

I began having episodes of blood pressure readings of 130/90, which is high for me. One day, I felt absolutely terrible. My heart was racing, I had flushing on my face, arms, and legs, and my blood pressure was 128/100! I drove myself to the doctor where they performed an EKG and immediately admitted me into the hospital. I had lots of blood work taken, and they found that my potassium was very low. A potassium IV was inserted, which was painful. Now, a potassium pill keeps my levels normal. I had been experiencing flushing and heart palpitations for a while. This began after several bad episodes of overheating and sweating. My heart doctor could find no other reason for my low potassium except for the overheating. I am now on Lopressor and still on potassium.

Comment from: 1976, 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: August 21

My hypokalemia started with weak legs. I couldn't hold myself upright. I had nerve tests run, an MRI, and CAT scans. Finally, one morning, I woke up and was paralyzed. People would call me, and I couldn't even answer the phone. I lived alone and called out when I heard people, but no one responded. My girlfriend came over when she heard I didn't go to work or answer my phone. That's when I was transported to the hospital, and a complete workup was done on me. That's when I found out that I had low potassium. After oral and IV treatment, I was able to move my arm the next day. At the end of three days, I could move my legs, but I still had no strength. Finally, after 10 days, I could walk but with a walker. It has been four years now, and I can walk but not run or carry heavy stuff. I am taking anti-depressants, and one of the side effects is excessive sweating. Until I get off my anti-depressants, I will have to continue to take potassium pills.

Comment from: heather1, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: July 26

For the past week I've been in and out of the hospital with elevated heart rate and heart palpitations. My heart would go from 80 to 130 within seconds. I seriously thought I was having a heart attack. While the doctors were telling me it was a panic attack I know my own body knew for sure they were wrong. The ekg came back abnormal and the blood results showed I had low potassium and a little dehydrated. They kept me in the hospital for 2 days ran more tests then told me nothing was wrong with me. They claim I had a severe anxiety attack. I no longer have the heart palpitations or elevated heart rate but I don't feel myself, I have been tired for days and feel weak. I feel like I'm going crazy. I don't know what to think.

Comment from: teachem, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: June 05

After gaining too much weight with my first pregnancy, I developed high blood pressure (130/90). So I was prescribed a diuretic when I was done breast feeding. My doctor regularly monitors my kidney function, cholesterol and blood sugar (all normal) and noticed at my last blood test that my K was only 3.4 (mildly low). He ordered that I eat a banana a day and a retest in four days.

Published: July 22

I had a very bad stomach virus, intractable diarrhea and vomiting at the same time. After two agonizing days and nights, I was so weak; I barely made it to the bathroom. I asked my husband to take me to the ER. There, they ran blood tests, gave me Iv's for major dehydration. The blood result came back with a low potassium level of 2.0. I was admitted to the hospital for five days, where I got IV potassium and saline. I started feeling better after about three days, but was still very, very weak and drained.

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Published: June 18

I thought I had pulled a groin muscle. After several days of pain, I finally went to my family doctor and he put me on prednisone and a muscle relaxer. By the next morning, I could not move my arms or legs. I could wiggle my fingers and toes, and I could feel anywhere that was touched, but I simply did not have the strength to even lift my arm to scratch my nose. An ambulance had to take me to the hospital. Blood tests proved the diagnosis of low potassium. I was given a bag of potassium and another blood test was done. I was then admitted and spent three days in the hospital getting potassium intravenously and orally. I did not lose the potassium by the usual ways such as diarrhea, vomiting, sweating or diuretics. I still don't know what caused it.

Published: June 13

I began having the feeling that there was a frog jumping around in my chest, and I had occasional minor chest pains. I went to the emergency. After about six hours of palpitations, they performed an ECG, EKG, Chest X-ray and blood tests. Everything except the blood tests were normal, which led to a diagnosis of PVC's (Premature Ventricular Contractions) due to hypokalemia.

Comment from: gg, 35-44 Male (Patient) Published: July 15

The first blood test I requested in produced zero results. I went back again later for another test and got the same result. Symptoms persisted so I went back July 7. The result was low potassium in kidneys. The level is unknown. I have just done a retest yesterday. My main symptom is severe tiredness. My father died of acute renal failure. I am in my mid thirties. I have had this condition for over 10 years.

Comment from: tinytiff, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: July 07

I recently was taken to the emergency room with my heart racing, shortness of breath, sweating and near fainting. My blood pressure was 150/130 and my heart rate was 140 lying down. I thought I was having a heart attack. The hospital did a chest x-ray, blood tests and EKG's and said I was fine except my potassium was slightly low at 3.2. I was given 1 pill and sent on my way. I still feel funny at times. I keep something with potassium with me at all times. I later found out the medication I was on Prednisone probably was the start of all this which caused sweating and frequent urination which is where my potassium was probably lost.

Comment from: cashmere28333, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: July 07

I woke up in the ICU on life support, the resident doctor did not know about Addison's and ties to imbalances. I have had congestive heart failure, 2 heart attacks and TIA's from dialysis, still on going for 2 years, need help from new doctor. I go to the national top hospital, but it is only as good as the doc that opens the door to the sub clinics.

Comment from: clare, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: June 12

An assessment done preoperation found in the blood test that my potassium levels were 3.5 quite low, I had no idea why I was feeling stressed confused and was getting visual disturbances. I have been on water tablets for 20 years, the hospital told me to eat a Banana every day, I never realized the side affects. I suffer for chronic diarrhea, and muscle pains, and until I searched this site I couldn't pin point the problem. I will make an appointment to see my GP, thank you so much for all the information. I now know why I have all these symptoms.

Comment from: 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: May 27

I was having heaviness in my chest and palpitations of the heart. I assumed it was from stress. When the stress disappeared the palpitations and heaviness in my chest didn't, so my husband made me go into the emergency room where they ran EKG's, cat scans, and chest x rays. All of which came back normal. Until the blood tests came back with low potassium levels they immediately gave me potassium and within a couple days I was feeling myself again. I now take supplements everyday and haven't had any problems since.

Comment from: Viv, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: May 26

Low potassium was diagnosed through a general blood check I had last week, as was high creatinine. One of my kidneys was removed due to cancer (over 10 years ago). My GP periodically checks my blood. Your site is very informative and clearly explains low potassium, its causes and symptoms. The muscle wasting that has occurred in my body this year is now, perhaps, explained together with general weariness that feels abnormal.

Comment from: Lisa, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: May 11

I have been to the hospital for fainting, heart palpitations several times in the last few years. Every time I was released with good EKGs, but they had to give me IVs and told me I had low potassium, but was never told to get treatment. I'm a very healthy person, who doesn't drink or smoke. I don't take diuretics or have an eating disorder. I do suffer from severe constipation due to stress. I read the comments by other readers who have been dismissed by a primary care physician regarding this issue. I don't know if they think I'm too young, but it is concerning. I will try my chiropractor & the V8.

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Comment from: Diana, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: March 13

I went on a water pill Metolazone and lost 13 pounds in 3 days. I also got very weak and had some slight chest pain. I called the nurse the next day. She had me go in right away for blood test. A short time later nurse called back and said that my potassium was 2.1. I needed to be checked into the hospital right away.

Comment from: 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: January 07

I take hydrochlorothiazide for high blood pressure. My hypokalemia was diagnosed by a blood test. It was at 2.9, and the doctor called me as soon as he received the results and prescribed a potassium supplement. I'm due for another blood test now, after 3 months, to check again. Ironically, my mother (in assisted living) was also diagnosed with low potassium via blood test; hers was probably caused by chronic diarrhea, which she had not admitted to the doctor because of embarrassment.

Comment from: 55-64 Female Published: August 07

I have chronic hematuria and an adrenal adenoma. A blood test was given to monitor those conditions, and that established that I also had low potassium.

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