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Low Potassium (cont.)

When to Seek Medical Care

If you are having symptoms of low potassium, call your doctor. If you have muscle cramps, weakness, palpitations, or feel faint and you are taking a diuretic (water pill), contact your healthcare professional or go to an urgent care facility or hospital emergency department immediately.

Without symptoms, you will not know you have low potassium levels until you have a routine blood test or an electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG).

Low Potassium Diagnosis

Sometimes the cause of low potassium is not clear. Your doctor may perform certain tests to rule out other conditions such as renal tubular acidosis, Cushing syndrome, and hypocalcemia.

  • If an electrolyte imbalance is suspected, blood tests will be ordered check potassium levels, kidney function (BUN and creatinine), glucose, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorous if an electrolyte imbalance is suspected.
  • Because low potassium is known to affect heart rhythms (arrhythmias), a doctor may order a digoxin (Lanoxin) level if the patient is taking a digitalis preparation.
  • ECG or a heart tracing is done to detect electrical changes in the heart and certain types of irregular heart rhythms that may be caused by low potassium.

Low Potassium Self-Care at Home

If you are monitoring low potassium levels, avoid long, strenuous physical activities because loss of potassium occurs with sweating.

If dietary supplements, herbal supplements, diuretics (water pills), or laxatives are causing the low potassium symptoms, avoid taking these products and consult a doctor. Never stop taking a prescribed medication without first consulting your doctor.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/19/2015

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Hypokalemia »

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

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