WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:
- Hypokalemia (hi-po-kah-LE-me-ah) is a condition where the level of potassium in your blood is lower than normal. Potassium is an electrolyte (mineral) that is normally found in the body and keeps your body working properly. Potassium helps control how your muscles, heart, and digestive system work by moving into and out of cells. Most potassium in the body is found inside the cells. Hypokalemia happens when too little potassium stays in the blood. A diet low in potassium or high in caffeine may decrease potassium levels. Kidney problems, diarrhea (loose bowel movement), vomiting (throwing up), or taking certain medicines may also cause hypokalemia.
- Symptoms of hypokalemia include muscle twitching, cramps, weakness, or paralysis (cannot move). Your heart may beat faster or have an irregular beat. Blood potassium levels and an electrocardiogram (ECG) may be needed to diagnose hypokalemia. Treatment is by giving potassium supplements or replacements, and treating the cause of hypokalemia. With prompt and proper treatment, you have a greater chance of having a full recovery.
AFTER YOU LEAVE:
- Keep a current list of your medicines: Include the amounts, and when, how, and why you take them. Take the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists. Use vitamins, herbs, or food supplements only as directed.
- Take your medicine as directed: Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not working as expected. Tell him about any medicine allergies, and if you want to quit taking or change your medicine.
Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:
For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.
You may need to change what you eat to control your blood levels of potassium. Ask your caregiver or dietitian to help you plan a diet that is right for you.
- You may need to increase the amount of potassium you eat. Foods that are high in potassium include bananas, tomatoes, oranges, turkey and milk. Juices that are high in potassium include orange juice, citrus juices, and tomato juice. Use salt substitutes if necessary.
- You may need to limit your intake of sodium and caffeine. Foods that are high in sodium include cheddar cheese, pretzels, or processed meats, such as bacon, sausage, and ham. Caffeine is in some coffees, teas, sodas, and chocolates.
CONTACT A CAREGIVER IF:
- You are vomiting or have diarrhea.
- You have numbness or pricking of your arms or legs.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition, medicine, or care.
SEEK CARE IMMEDIATELY IF:
- You have trouble breathing.
- You have an abnormal heartbeat (fast, slow, strong, weak, or irregular).
- You are too tired or weak to move or to stand up.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.