Font Size
A
A
A
1
...

Low Potassium
(Hypokalemia)

Low Potassium (Hypokalemia) Overview

Low potassium levels (hypokalemia), can cause weakness as cellular processes are impaired.

Potassium is a mineral (electrolyte) in the body. Almost 98% of potassium is found inside the cells. Small changes in the level of potassium that is present outside the cells can have severe effects on the heart, nerves, and muscles.

Potassium is important to maintain several bodily functions:

  • Muscles need potassium to contract.
  • The heart muscle needs potassium to beat properly and regulate blood pressure.

The kidney is the main organ that controls the balance of potassium by removing excess potassium into the urine.

When potassium levels are low (hypokalemia), you can become weak as cellular processes are impaired.

  • The normal potassium level is 3.5-5.0 mEq/L (mEq/L stand for milliequivalents per liter of blood and this is a measure used to evaluate the level). Low potassium is defined as a potassium level below 3.5 mEq/L.
  • Almost one out of five people hospitalized in the United States has a low potassium level.
  • People with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, patients with AIDS, alcoholics, and those who have had bariatric surgery have a higher incidence of hypokalemia than others.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/27/2014

Must Read Articles Related to Low Potassium

Acute Kidney Failure
Acute Kidney Failure Kidney failure, or the ability of the kidneys to filter water and waste is caused by prerenal, postrenal, or renal problems with the kidney(s). Symptoms of kidn...learn more >>
Kidney Disease
Chronic Kidney Disease Twenty percent of people over the age of 20 years will develop chronic kidney disease in their lifetime. Chronic kidney disease causes are diseases of the kidne...learn more >>
Dehydration (Adults)
Dehydration in Adults Dehydration occurs when the loss of body fluids (mostly water), exceeds the amount that is taken in. Causes of dehydration include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, di...learn more >>

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Low Potassium (Hypokalemia):

Low Potassium - Symptoms

What were the symptoms of your low potassium (hypokalemia)?

Low Potassium (Hypokalemia) - Diagnosis

How was the diagnosis of your low potassium (hypokalemia) established?

Low Potassium (Hypokalemia) - Causes

What was the cause of your low potassium?



From WebMD


Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Hypokalemia »

Potassium, the most abundant intracellular cation, is essential for the life of the organism.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


Medical Dictionary