Sunday, 3 November 2013

What are the symptoms of low potassium?

Potassium affects the way neuromuscular cells discharge energy (depolarize) and then regenerate (repolarize) that energy to be able to fire again. When potassium levels are low, the cells cannot repolarize and are unable to fire repeatedly, so the  muscles and nerves can function normally. The effects of low potassium include can cause the following symptoms:

  • muscle weakness,
  • muscle aches,
  • muscle cramps, and
  • palpitations (irregular heartbeats)

How is low potassium diagnosed?

Potassium levels in the blood may be easily measured by routine blood tests.
Low potassium is often a potential complication of medication, for example, patients with high bloodpressure who are being treated with diuretics such as hydrochlorothiazide (Hydrodiuril) or furosemide (Lasix) often have their potassium levels monitored.
Patients who become ill with vomiting and diarrhea, may develop dehydration And  weakness. Part of the patient evaluation may include having theirelectrolyte levels tested in order to determine whether body potassium losses may need to be replaced.
There can be electrocardiogram (EKG, ECG) changes associated with low potassium, and sometimes the diagnosis of low potassium is made incidentally by finding the characteristic "U" waves on the EKG tracing. In severe cases, hypokalemia can lead to dangerous disturbances in heart rhythm (dysrhythmia).