Low Potassium Symptoms And Ten Visible Causes

Low potassium symptoms

If you have hypokalemia, that means you have low levels of potassium in your blood. Potassium is a mineral your body needs to function normally. It helps the muscles to move, the cells get the nutrients they need, and the nerves send their signals. It is very important for the cells in your heart. It also helps keep your blood pressure up.

Causes of Low Potassium

There are many different reasons you can have low potassium levels. It is possible that too much potassium leaves your digestive tract. It is usually a symptom of another problem.

Usually, you get hypokalemia when:

  • Your kidneys or adrenal glands don’t work well
  • Medicines, such as diuretics (water pills), certain antibiotics
  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Eating disorders (such as bulimia)
  • Hyperaldosteronism
  • Laxative overuse, which can cause diarrhea
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Low magnesium level
  • Sweating
  • Genetic disorders, such as hypokalemic periodic paralysis, Bartter syndrome

It is possible, but not uncommon, for hypokalemia to have very little potassium in your diet.

Some things sometimes cause it, too, such as:

  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Sweating a lot
  • Folic acid deficiency
  • Certain antibiotics
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis (high levels of acids called ketones in your blood)
  • Laxatives are taken over a long period of time
  • Certain types of tobacco
  • Some asthma medications
  • Low magnesium

Several syndromes can be associated with low potassium, such as:

  • Cushing’s syndrome
  • Gitelman syndrome
  • Liddle syndrome
  • Bartter syndrome
  • Fanconi syndrome
  • Women tend to get hypokalemia more often than men.


If your problem is temporary, or you are a little hypokalemic, you may not feel any symptoms.

When your potassium levels fall below a certain level, you may feel:

  • Weaknesses
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle twitching or convulsions
  • Constipation
  • Arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm)

Hypokalemia can affect your kidneys. You may need to go to the toilet more often. You may also feel thirsty.

You may notice muscle problems during exercise. In severe cases, muscle weakness can lead to paralysis and respiratory failure.


You will need a blood test at your doctor to find out if you have hypokalemia. They will ask you about your health history. They will want to know if you have ever had an illness that involved vomiting or diarrhea. They will ask about any conditions you may have that may be causing them.

You can take a urine test so that your doctor can determine if you are losing potassium when you urinate.

Since low potassium can sometimes affect your blood pressure, your doctor will check that, too. They may also want to do an electrocardiogram (EKG) if they think you may have an arrhythmia. This is one of the most serious side effects, and it can change the way your doctor chooses to treat the problem.


You can get a lot of potassium by taking supplements. Many of these you can take orally. In some cases, it is necessary to have your potassium injected IV.

For example:

  • If your potassium level is too low
  • If taking supplements does not increase your potassium levels
  • If your low potassium levels cause an abnormal heart rate

When your hypokalemia is the result of another medical condition, your doctor will help you to manage that. If you have low potassium due to urine, they can remove it from them. Sometimes that makes the situation worse.

Always check with your doctor before stopping any medication. Also, ask them before taking any potassium supplements. This can cause a lot of potassium to build up in your system, which can lead to hyperkalemia.


What can happen if your potassium level is too low?

A low potassium level has many causes but usually results from vomiting, diarrhea, adrenal gland disorders, or use of diuretics. A low potassium level can make muscles feel weak, cramp, twitch or even become paralyzed, and abnormal heart rhythms may develop.

How do you fix low potassium?

Potassium supplements are generally prescribed for low potassium levels. If the situation is severe, potassium might be given as an intravenous (IV) solution. If there is a condition that causes hypokalemia, such as low levels of magnesium or an overactive thyroid, the other condition must be treated also.

Is low potassium serious?

It is critical to the proper functioning of nerve and muscle cells, particularly heart muscle cells. Normally, your blood potassium level is 3.6 to 5.2 millimoles per liter (mmol/L). A very low potassium level (less than 2.5 mmol/L ) can be life-threatening and requires urgent medical attention.

Can low potassium cause anxiety?

If you have low levels of potassium, you may experience an increase in your anxiety symptoms. Anxiety is an abnormal feeling of worry, fear, apprehension, or nervousness. Anxiety can occur for a number of reasons and comes in varying degrees of intensity. One common cause of anxiety is poor diet.

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