Hypokalemia is defined as decreased potassium levels in the body.
Hypokalemia is defined as decreased potassium levels in the body.

Hypokalemia is defined as decreased potassium levels in the body. Potassium is a micro-mineral, an electrolyte that is required for proper functioning of the heart, nerves and maintaining salt-water balance in the body. Low levels of potassium may be life threatening. Hypokalemia may occur as a result of increased rate of loss of body’s potassium or reduced intake. Several causes of hypokalemia may co-exist simultaneously in the body.

Potassium is usually found in fruits like banana, grapes, papaya, avocados, unprocessed foods, such as fresh leafy greens, tomatoes, potatoes and beans. 

Appropriate potassium intake (100 milligrams per day) reduces the risk of stroke, lowers blood pressure, reduces risk of kidney stones, maintains muscle mass and bone density

What causes hypokalemia?

Some common causes of hypokalemia include:

Certain diseases can be associated with low potassium, such as:

  • Cushing’s syndrome
  • Gitelman syndrome
  • Liddle syndrome
  • Bartter syndrome
  • Fanconi syndrome
  • Seizures, sensorineural deafness, ataxia, mental retardation, and electrolyte imbalance (SeSAME syndrome)

What are the signs and symptoms of hypokalaemia?

Temporary low potassium levels in the body may usually not present with obvious symptoms. Long term low levels of potassium can produce the following signs and symptoms:

How is hypokalemia diagnosed?

The doctor will obtain a detailed history and perform a clinical assessment. Blood and urine analysis indicate the level of potassium in the body and can confirm the diagnosis of hypokalemia. An electrocardiogram may be done to rule out heart complications.

How is hypokalemia treated?

The treatment options include:

  1. Treating the underlying cause. E.g. Dehydration, underlying any kidney condition, hormonal imbalance.
  2. Mild dehydration can be corrected by increasing the fluid intake and 
  3. Intravenous solution like ringer lactate may be required in case of required in the case of cardiac arrhythmias.
  4. Stopping medication that may be causing hypokalaemia with the doctor’s advice.
  5. Psychological support to manage alcoholism and eating disorders.
  6. Always talk to your doctor before starting any supplement. Accumulation of potassium in the body may be dangerous to health.


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Medically Reviewed on 8/26/2020