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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.

What causes hypokalemia?

  • A diet that is low in potassium
  • Drinking too much caffeine
  • Medicines, such as diuretics (water pills), blood pressure medicines, or antibiotics
  • Dehydration from diarrhea, vomiting, or heavy sweating
  • Medical conditions, such as Cushing syndrome or kidney problems

What are the signs and symptoms of hypokalemia?

  • Tiredness
  • Constipation
  • Fast or irregular heartbeats
  • Frequent urination or urinating large amounts
  • Muscle twitching or skin tingling
  • Muscle weakness

How is hypokalemia diagnosed?

  • An EKG test records your heart rhythm and how fast your heart beats. It is used to check for irregular heartbeats.
  • 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 are given will depend on the potassium level in your blood.

How can I manage my symptoms?

Eat foods that are high in potassium, such as bananas, tomatoes, oranges, turkey, and milk. Orange juice, citrus juices, and tomato juice are also high in potassium. Avoid caffeine. You may need to meet with a dietitian to help plan the best meals for you.

When should I contact my caregiver?

  • You are vomiting or 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.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

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

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.

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