Hypokalaemia

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Potassium is a crucial nutrient needed by the body for a wide range of functions, such as keeping up the heartbeat, helping the muscles to move, helping the cells to get the required nutrients, helping the nerves to send their signals, and maintaining the blood pressure and preventing it from getting too high. Deficiency in this highly important nutrient […] Read More

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Hypokalaemia

Potassium is a crucial nutrient needed by the body for a wide range of functions, such as keeping up the heartbeat, helping the muscles to move, helping the cells to get the required nutrients, helping the nerves to send their signals, and maintaining the blood pressure and preventing it from getting too high. Deficiency in this highly important nutrient occurs if too much potassium is lost through prolonged diarrhea or vomiting, or if sufficient potassium is not being gotten from diets. Hypokalaemia is a severe condition characterized by a low level of potassium in the blood, and it arises when a person’s potassium level falls below 2.5 millimoles per litre. This can be life-threatening. Hypokalaemia symptoms depend on how severe the deficiency is. Hypokalaemia symptoms may include high blood pressure, heart issues, constipation, muscle weakness, fatigue, and kidney problems. For hypokalaemia diagnosis, a series of tests and analyses may be conducted. The investigations for hypokalaemia diagnosis include;
  • A review of medical and medication history.
  • Blood tests such as measurement of the level of potassium, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorous in the blood; glucose estimation, and most times a complete kidney function test.
  • Electrocardiography (which many people refer to hypokalaemia ecg).
  • At times, an analysis may also be carried out to measure the amount of potassium in urine.
Hypokalaemia treatment. Hypokalaemia management depends on the hypokalaemia symptoms exhibited and the exact potassium levels estimated. However, in general, options of hypokalaemia correction include
  • Stoppage or reduction of the dosages of any medication that can lead to hypokalaemia.
  • Placement on daily potassium supplements.
  • Recommendation of daily or regular consumption of foods rich in potassium, such as fruits and vegetables.
  • Placement on medications that can raise the level of potassium in the body, such as angiotensin receptor blockers.
In severe hypokalaemia, immediate steps must be taken for hypokalaemia correction, such as immediately administering potassium intravenously.

Symptoms

Hypokalemia symptoms are usually absent when the drop in the level of blood potassium is just slight.

In cases where the drop is huge and significant likely hypokalemia symptoms include

  • Muscle weakness, cramping, fatigue, and twitches.
  • Paralysis.
  • Abnormal heart rhythms – This hypokalemia symptoms may also occur in cases where the drop in potassium level is slight, if there is existing heart disorder.
  • Kidney problems characterised by frequent urination and drinking large amounts of water.
  • Constipation.
  • Respiratory failure.
  • Breathing Difficulties

Causes

  • Hypokalemia causes is, typically, due to low level of potassium in the body system, which results from the loss of too much potassium from the digestive tract owing to vomiting, diarrhoea, or abusive or excessive use of laxative.
  • Certain medications: Hypokalemia causes could also be as a result of too much excretion of potassium in the urine, owing to drugs that make the kidneys to excrete sodium, water and potassium in their excess.
  • Adrenal disorders: Many adrenal disorders, such as Cushing syndrome, makes the adrenal glands produce too much of aldosterone hormone, which causes the kidneys to excrete large amounts of potassium, than necessary, from the body.
  • Certain drugs such as albuterol, insulin, and terbutaline make more potassium, than necessary, move from the bloodstream to the cells, and by so doing may result in hypokalaemia. However, the hypokalaemia caused by these drugs are usually temporary.
  • Hypomagnesaemia (low level of magnesium in the body): Hypokalaemia may sometimes occurs along with, or may be caused by low level of magnesium in the blood. 
  • Rare hypokalaemia causes are colon villous polyps and certain rare disorders, such as Liddle syndrome, Bartter’s syndrome and Gitelman syndrome. 
  • Also consuming too little potassium is one of the rare hypokalaemia causes, because many foods, such as beans, dark leafy greens, potatoes, fish, and bananas are potassium laden.

FAQ

What are the sources of potassium?

Potassium can be sufficiently gotten in certain foods such as

  • Bananas.
  • Tomatoes.
  • Oranges.
  • Cantaloupes.
  • Peaches.
  • Cooked beet greens.
  • Baked Yams.
  • Cooked white beans.
  • Cooked clams.
  • Baked white potatoes.
  • Baked sweet potatoes.
  • Avocado.
  • Cooked Pinto beans.
  • Dried apricots. 
  • Cooked lentils.
  • Dried prunes.
  • Spinach.
  • Non-fat fruit yogurt.
  • Cooked chopped broccoli.
  • Cooked brown rice.
  1. Should I take potassium supplement?

Only if recommended by a doctor. Having too much of potassium in the body can be harmful, it’s known as hyperkalaemia.

  1. What does potassium do for your body?

Potassium is an electrolyte and plays a very important role in digestive and bone health, and keeping the muscles, nerves, and heart functioning properly.

  1. Hypokalaemia vs. hyperkalaemia.

Hypokalaemia is a condition characterised by low level of potassium in the body, while hyperkalaemia is a condition characterised by high level of potassium in the body.

  1. What are the risk factors for hypokalaemia?

Some of these are –

  • Diuretic therapy with drugs, which do not conserve potassium.
  • Certain eating disorders, like bulimia.
  • Abuse or excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Profuse sweating.
  • Overdose or abuse of laxatives.
  • Persistent or excessive diarrhoea or vomiting.
  • Low magnesium level in the blood.
  • Certain medical conditions (like hyperaldosteronism), or genetic disorders (like Bartter syndrome).
  • Usage of certain antibiotics.
  1. How can hypokalaemia be prevented?
  • Quit consumption of alcohol. 
  • Avoid excessive use of laxatives.
  • When experiencing diarrhoea or vomiting, drink enough electrolyte replacement solutions.
  • Consume enough potassium-laden foods, such as bananas, fish, dark leafy greens, beans, nuts, tomatoes and those mentioned above.
  • If need be for diuretics, switch to ones that preserves potassium levels.
  1. What complications are associated with hypokalaemia?

Hypokalaemia is often mild and doesn’t cause many problems. It can easily be resolved without issues once the problem has been identified and addressed. However, severe cases can be grave and lead to conditions such as hyperkalaemia, paralysis, respiratory failure, and kidney and heart problems, which are fatal in nature.