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Hypokalemia

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

What is hypokalemia?

Hypokalemia is a low level of potassium in your blood. Potassium helps control how your muscles, heart, and digestive system work. Hypokalemia occurs when your body loses too much potassium or does not absorb enough from food.

What causes hypokalemia?

  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Medicines, such as diuretics, blood pressure medicines, or antibiotics
  • Excessive use of laxatives
  • Anorexia or bulimia nervosa
  • Medical conditions, such as Cushing syndrome or kidney disease
  • Not eating enough foods that contain potassium

What are the signs and symptoms of hypokalemia?

You may not have any signs or symptoms if you have mild hypokalemia. You may have any of the following if it is more severe:

  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Frequent urination or urinating large amounts
  • Muscle cramps or skin tingling
  • Muscle weakness
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat

How is hypokalemia diagnosed?

  • An EKG test records your heart rhythm and how fast your heart beats. It is used to check for an irregular heartbeat.
  • Blood tests are done to check your potassium level.

How is hypokalemia treated?

You will receive potassium to bring your levels back to normal. This may be given as a pill or IV. The amount of potassium you will be given depends on your potassium level.

What foods are high in potassium?

Foods that are high in potassium include bananas, oranges, tomatoes, potatoes, and avocado. Pinto beans, turkey, salmon, lean beef, yogurt, and milk are also high in potassium. Ask your healthcare provider or dietitian for more information about foods that are high in potassium.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You cannot move your arm or leg.
  • You have a fast or irregular heartbeat.
  • You are too tired or weak to stand up.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You are vomiting, or you have diarrhea.
  • You have numbness or tingling in your arms or legs.
  • Your symptoms do not go away or they get worse.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

© 2017 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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.

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