What is hypokalemia?
Hypokalemia is an electrolyte imbalance, with a low level of potassium in the blood. The normal value of potassium in adults is 3.5 to 5.3 mEq / L.
Potassium is one of many electrolytes in the body. It lies within the cells. Normal levels of potassium are important for the functioning of the heart and nervous system.
What causes hypokalemia?
The body regulates blood potassium levels mobilizing them into or out of cells. When there is a breakdown or destruction of cells, the potassium out of the cell into the bloodstream and cause excessive excretion hypokalemia. The trauma or excess insulin, especially if you have diabetes, can cause movement of potassium into cells and lower blood levels (hypokalemia).
Potassium is excreted (or "purge" of the body) by your kidneys. Certain medications or conditions can cause the kidneys to excrete excess potassium. This is the most common cause of hypokalemia.
Other causes include:
Loss of body potassium.
Some medications, such as diuretics (furosemide) can cause a loss of potassium .. Other drugs include steroids, licorice, sometimes aspirin and certain antibiotics.
Renal dysfunction (kidney): kidneys may not work well due to a condition called renal tubular acidosis (RTA). In this case too the kidneys excrete potassium. Medications that cause ATR include Cisplatin and Amphotericin B.
Faced with the loss of body fluids by vomiting, diarrhea or excessive sweating.
Endocrine or hormonal problems (such as increased levels of aldosterone): Aldosterone is a hormone that regulates levels of potassium. Certain diseases of the endocrine system, as aldosteronism or Cushing's syndrome, can cause potassium loss.
Insufficient potassium intake
What are the symptoms of hypokalemia that should be considered?
You may not have symptoms unless blood potassium levels are very low.
You may have muscle weakness, fatigue or cramps.
The doctor may notice a decrease in the reflexes.
You may present changes in the electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG).
What to do if the results of the blood tests indicate hypokalemia:
Follow your doctor's instructions to increase the level of potassium in the blood. If the results of your blood tests show that the levels are too low, your doctor may prescribe potassium supplements, whether in pill or intravenously (IV).
If you take heart medications and has a blood potassium level under chronic (long-term), we may recommend a diet high in potassium. Foods high in potassium include most fruits and vegetables. Specific examples include:
Oranges and orange juice
Green leafy vegetables such as spinach and vegetables (cabbage and kale)
Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can cause electrolyte disturbances.
Follow all the doctor's recommendations regarding laboratory analyzes.
Medications that your doctor can prescribe for hypokalemia:
The doctor may prescribe medications to increase blood potassium levels, including:
Potassium-sparing diuretics: also known as "pills water retention" as they help to increase blood potassium levels by allowing your kidneys to retain potassium while you urinate more. A widely used example of this drug may be spironolactone.
Potassium and magnesium supplements: to correct the blood potassium level and bring it to "normal." It should also take magnesium. These drugs can be taken in pill or intravenously (IV) if you have a severe deficiency of these electrolytes.
When to call the doctor:
If you have these symptoms, see your doctor:
Increased frequency of urination, painful urination, weight loss.
If you experience symptoms of low blood sugar, such as shaking, sweating and fatigue.
If you develop signs of confusion.
Shortness of breath, chest pain or discomfort, swelling of the lips or throat should be evaluated immediately, especially if you started with a new drug.
Feeling your heart beating fast or feel palpitations.
Nausea that interferes with ability to eat and unrelieved with prescribed medications.
Diarrhea (4-6 episodes in 24 hours) that is not relieved with antidiarrheal medications or with a change in diet.