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Potassium – Facts and Symptoms of Hypokaliemia

Potassium is the mineral necessary for our health. This mineral is important for the transmission of the signals between the nerves and cells, regulation of the water and acid balance in the blood and muscle building. The recommended daily dose of potassium is around 3500mg (3.5g) per day.

There are two distinctive conditions associated with the potassium: hyperkaliemia (elevated potassium level in the blood) and hypokaliemia (lack of potassium in the blood).

Potassium deficiency or hypokaliemia can cause various symptoms, since the mineral is so widely used in the body. It can be presented as muscle cramps or weakness, heartbeat problems, headaches, depression, tiredness, confusion, anxiety or sleeping problems. Other symptoms of hypokaliemia include: very dry skin, nausea, vomiting, extreme thirst, diarrhea or constipation and hypotension. Lack of potassium can affect the metabolism, causing salt retention and edema, heightened cholesterol and glucoseintolerance.

Potassium deficiency that develops very fast may cause heart problems and lead to cardiac arrest or hypokalemicparalysis.

Causes of Hypokaliemia

When thinking about mineral deficiencies people will always assume that there was not enough mineral taken with the food or some medical conditions caused the deficiency. Talking about potassium, it’s quite rare that people don’t eat enough of it, because many foods are rich in this mineral.

Poor diet can cause hypokaliemia. To prevent this problem, always provide plenty of fish, soy products, bananas, apricots, yogurt and broccoli. These foods will be able to maintain optimal potassium level and they will prevent potential memory loss, tiredness and insomnia. People chewing tobacco or eating licorice should know that these substances might affect the absorption of potassium.

Diuretic and laxative medications, penicillin, corticosteroids, hypertension medications and adrenal hormones might also cause hypokaliemia. Ion exchange resins, used to treat heightened cholesterol in the blood may also be the reason of hypokaliemia. Check your potassium level frequently if you are using these drugs.

Prolonged diarrhea may also cause increased potassium excretion and cause hypokaliemia.

Hyperthyroidism may cause imbalance of several minerals in the body. It can be responsible for hypokaliemia, but also for the changes in calcium, magnesium and sodium levels in the blood.

Some kidney diseases can also affect the potassium in the blood. Bartter and Liddle kidney disease and Cushing’s syndrome are genetic disorders that might cause potassium deficiency. Patients on dialysis and those with kidney failure can worsen their condition if the potassium level is too high. Because of this fact, kidney patients are advised to consult their doctor before doing anything about their potassium level.

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