Hypokalemia

Hypokalemia means a low level of potassium in the blood. This most often occurs in people who take water pills (diuretics). It can also result from severe vomiting or diarrhea. You may also have it if you take laxatives for long periods of time. It sometimes happens if you have low magnesium (hypomagnesemia). If you have this, your healthcare provider will treat the low magnesium first.

A mild case of hypokalemia often causes no symptoms. It is only found with blood testing. More severe potassium loss causes:

  • Overall weakness

  • Muscle or stomach cramps

  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats (heart palpitations)

  • Low blood pressure

  • Muscle weakness

  • Short-term paralysis in some people

Home care

  • Take any potassium supplements as prescribed.

  • Eat foods rich in potassium. High amounts of potassium are found in baked potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, spinach, cantaloupe, cod, halibut, salmon, and scallops. White, red, or pinto beans are also very good sources. So, too, are avocados, orange juice, bananas, carrots, and tomato juice.

  • If you take certain types of diuretics, you will also need to take potassium supplements. Talk with your healthcare provider.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider for a repeat blood test within the next week, or as advised by our staff.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have:

  • Increased weakness, fatigue, or muscle cramps

  • Dizziness

Call 911

Call 911 if you have:

  • Irregular heartbeat, extra beats, or very fast heart rate

  • Loss of consciousness

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