Causes, symptoms, and treatment for hypokalemia

Causes, symptoms, and treatment for hypokalemia

There’s a major reason why we are asked to consume a balanced diet, our body needs nutrients to perform all its functions and eating healthy food is a fool-proof way of ensuring that all its needs are met. When one doesn’t consume certain food groups, there are high chances that they can suffer from one or the other form of nutrient deficiency. Essential nutrients include vitamins and minerals that strengthen the immune system and actively protect the individual from falling prey to illnesses.

When the body doesn’t get the required amount of nutrients, the deficiencies can have a drastic impact. One such condition that arises due to low levels of potassium in the blood is called hypokalemia. Hypokalemia can have disastrous consequences as potassium is an essential nutrient which the body needs to function normally. Potassium is vital as it helps the muscles move, enables the cells to receive nutrients they need, and ensures the nerves are able to send signals throughout the body. Moreover, potassium plays a major role in preventing the blood pressure from rising.

Causes of hypokalemia
There are several reasons why people suffer from hypokalemia. One of the major reasons for low potassium levels in the body is that too much potassium leaves the digestive tract. Usually, people develop hypokalemia due to the following reasons:

  • Consistent vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • The malfunctioning of kidneys or adrenal glands
  • Overuse of diuretics or water pills
  • Overconsumption of alcohol
  • Sweating too much
  • Certain antibiotics
  • Folic acid deficiency
  • Tobacco
  • Certain asthma medications
  • Laxatives
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis
  • Low magnesium

Though hypokalemia is not a fatal condition, one needs to seek appropriate medical help and make major lifestyle changes to ensure that the condition doesn’t go spiraling out of control.

Symptoms of hypokalemia
Before hypokalemia makes its presence known completely, several symptoms start surfacing. Recognizing these symptoms can help in identifying the condition and enabling one to take prompt measures. The symptoms of hypokalemia are as follows:

  • Weakness
  • Constipation
  • Muscle cramps
  • Twitching
  • Fatigue
  • Arrhythmia

When the potassium levels fall below a certain level, the individual will start experiencing these symptoms. Another important factor to pay attention to is that hypokalemia can affect the kidneys as well. This can give rise to the need to go to the washroom frequently, and the person will feel unusually thirsty as well.

Treatment for hypokalemia
As hypokalemia is a condition that is caused due to the deficiency of potassium in the body, the treatment will focus on ensuring that the individual gets a sufficient amount of the particular nutrient. Mostly, potassium supplements are prescribed in such situations. Usually, oral supplements do the trick; however, one needs to consult with the doctor and take the supplement that is prescribed. In certain severe cases where the potassium level is dangerously low, or when the supplements fail to raise the potassium levels, or if the low potassium levels cause abnormal heart rhythms, potassium is injected by intravenous therapy (IV) for faster results.

In certain cases when hypokalemia is caused by another underlying condition, the physician has to treat the source of the problem, and hypokalemia will be treated as well. It is imperative to consult with the physician and take the potassium supplement prescribed by them. Moreover, it is necessary to adhere to the doctor’s advice about the amount of dosage. Too much of potassium in the system can lead to hyperkalemia, which is a dangerous health condition as well.