Symptom: Low potassium (hypokalemia)

    Low potassium (hypokalemia) refers to a lower than normal potassium level in your bloodstream. Potassium is a chemical (electrolyte) that is critical to the proper functioning of nerve and muscles 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.

    Low potassium (hypokalemia)

    Causes of potassium loss leading to low potassium include:

    1. Chronic kidney disease
    2. Diabetic ketoacidosis
    3. Diarrhea
    4. Excessive alcohol use
    5. Excessive laxative use
    6. Excessive sweating
    7. Folic acid deficiency
    8. Prescription water or fluid pills (diuretics) use
    9. Primary aldosteronism
    10. Vomiting
    11. Some antibiotic use

    Causes shown here are commonly associated with this symptom. Work with your doctor or other health care professional for an accurate diagnosis.


    Low potassium symptoms may include:

    • Weakness
    • Fatigue
    • Muscle cramps
    • Constipation

    Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) are the most worrisome complication of very low potassium levels, particularly in people with underlying heart disease.

    Talk to your doctor about what your results mean. You may need to change a medication that's affecting your potassium level, or you may need to treat another medical condition that's causing your low potassium level.

    Treatment of low potassium is directed at the underlying cause and may include potassium supplements. Don't start taking potassium supplements without talking to your doctor first.


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