Low Potassium (Hypokalemia): Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

Potassium is an important mineral in the human body. It is essential for making sure that your heart, muscles, and nerves work properly. Potassium also helps balance fluids in your body and maintain healthy blood pressure levels. The recommended daily intake of potassium for adults is 4,700 mg (4.7 g).

Hypokalemia is a condition in which the level of potassium in the blood is too low. The body needs potassium to maintain proper electrical activity in cells and fluids, as well as for muscle function.

The level of potassium in the blood is an important indicator of how well your body is working. The amount of potassium in your blood can be measured by a blood test.

Though, hypokalemia is rarely caused by dietary deficiency alone. It can be caused by a number of factors, including:

  • fluid loss
  • malnutrition
  • shock
  • use of certain medications
  • kidney failure

Potassium Range:

The normal range for potassium level in the blood = 3.6 to 5.2 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L).

What are the causes of hypokalemia?

Hypokalemia is a condition in which the level of potassium in the blood is lower than normal. It can be caused by different factors, such as medications, kidney disease, or diet.

The most common cause of hypokalemia is due to medications that are used to treat other conditions. These include diuretics, beta blockers, and some anti-depressants.

Kidney disease is another common cause of hypokalemia because it can affect how well the kidneys work and how they filter out potassium from the body.

A third cause is diet. It’s possible for a person to have a low potassium level if they don’t consume enough foods rich in potassium such as bananas and potatoes.

The following is a list of conditions that may be associated with hypokalemia:

  • Acute renal failure
  • Adrenal insufficiency
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Diarrhea
  • Fasting or low calorie intake
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Hepatic cirrhosis
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Insulinoma

What are the symptoms of hypokalemia?

The symptoms of hypokalemia are:

  • Muscle weakness or cramps
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Paralysis, seizures, and mental confusion
  • Rapid breathing and heart rate.

What are the Sources of potassium?

Potassium is a mineral that is essential for the body’s metabolic functions and normal cellular and muscular function.

Potassium is found in a variety of foods, including:

  • Bananas
  • Avocados
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Dark leafy greens

How do you diagnosis hypokalemia?

Hypokalemia can be found during routine serum electrolyte measurement. Your doctor generally diagnose hypokalemia during routine blood and urine tests.  Usually, these tests are to check mineral and vitamin levels in the blood. It is also suspected by checking your ECG as heart abnormalities are common in hypokalemia.

How is hypokalemia is treated?

Here are few ways to treat hypokalemia:

  • Restore potassium levels
  • Monitor potassium levels
  • Reduce reasons that cause hypokalemia

The treatment should be given by knowing the causes of particular disease. Here, hypokalemia can also be caused by continues diarrhea and vomiting’s or due to some medications. At this situation, we have to stop using such medications.

You can take potassium supplements to restore low potassium levels. But, you can have side effects when tried to increase potassium levels too quickly. If in case, you have dangerously low potassium levels, you may need an IV drip for controlled potassium intake.

Make sure to monitor your potassium levels, even hospitalized. Too much potassium levels may also damage few organs and cause serious complications.


Hypokalemia is a condition in which the level of potassium in the blood is too low. It can cause muscle weakness, paralysis, abnormal heart rhythms, and even death.