Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Table of Contents

Alternative Names

Potassium - low; Low blood potassium


Treatment

Mild hypokalemia can be treated by taking potassium supplements by mouth. Persons with more severe cases may need to get potassium through a vein (intravenously).

If you need to use diuretics, your doctor may switch you to a form that keeps potassium in the body (such as triamterene, amiloride, or spironolactone).

One type of hypokalemia that causes paralysis occurs when there is too much thyroid hormone in the blood (thyrotoxic periodic paralysis). Treatment lowers the thyroid hormone level, and raises the potassium level in the blood.


Support Groups


Expectations (prognosis)

Taking potassium supplements can usually correct the problem. In severe cases, without proper treatment a severe drop in potassium levels can lead to serious heart rhythm problems that can be fatal.


Complications

In severe cases, patients can develop paralysis that can be life threatening. Hypokalemia also can lead to dangerous irregular heartbeat. Over time, lack of potassium can lead to kidney damage (hypokalemic nephropathy).


Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you have been vomiting or have had excessive diarrhea, or if you are taking diuretics and have symptoms of hypokalemia.


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Review Date: 05/29/2011
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org)