What are the 10 signs of low potassium?

January 22, 2024

What are the 10 signs of low potassium?
Share the article

Potassium Deficiency

Low blood potassium levels are known as hypokalemia. Potassium is necessary for your body’s proper operation. You obtain potassium from the food you eat. When you take laxatives, vomit, or have diarrhoea, your digestive tract loses too much potassium, which can lead to low potassium levels. Additional factors include some drugs, as well as several hereditary and adrenal disorders.


The mineral called potassium is necessary for every bodily process. It aids in the movement of waste and nutrients among your cells and supports a healthy heart, muscles, and nerves.

Potassium is an electrolyte. As minerals dissolve in your body’s fluids, they become electrolytes and acquire an electric charge. In order for your muscles, nerves, and cells to work properly, your body needs potassium. The foods you eat provide potassium to your body. For the mineral balance in your body to remain in equilibrium, your kidneys eliminate extra potassium through urine (pee).

Low Potassium Levels

When a person’s body contains abnormally low amounts of potassium, it is known as potassium deficiency. Hypokalemia is another name for it.

When the potassium level in your blood is abnormally low, it is called hypokalemia. Adults typically have potassium levels between 3.5 and 5.2 mEq/L (3.5 to 5.2 mmol/L). Potassium is considered to become severely low when the potassium levels become less than 3 mEq/L (3 mmol/L).

Causes of Low Potassium

The most common cause of low blood potassium is excessive potassium loss in the digestive system. This could be the result of laxative use, diarrhoea, or regular vomiting.

  • Low potassium can also result from eating disorders like bulimia nervosa.
  • Hyperhidrosis, or excessive perspiration.
  • Problematic alcohol consumption.
  • Diuretics (water pills). Diuretics can lead to excessive potassium excretion in the urine.
  • Additional drugs, including corticosteroids, insulin, and some antibiotics.
  • Adrenal diseases, including Cushing’s syndrome and primary aldosteronism.
  • Chronic renal illness.
  • Hypomagnesemia, or low magnesium levels.
  • A few renal diseases, including Gitelman syndrome and Bartter’s syndrome. These are uncommon hereditary kidney diseases that lead to bodily abnormalities.
  • Additional illnesses including Liddle syndrome, an uncommon ailment that raises blood pressure.

10 Signs of Low Potassium

Following are the main symptoms of low potassium levels in your body:

  • Weakness and exhaustion: Weariness and weakness are frequently the initial indications of potassium insufficiency.In the first place, potassium controls how muscles contract. Your muscles contract less forcefully when your blood potassium levels are low.Secondly, an insufficiency of this mineral could influence the way your body utilises nutrition, thus leading to weariness.
  • Cramping and weakening of the muscles: Potassium aids in the transmission of brain signals that cause skeletal muscle contractions.Low blood potassium levels impair the brain’s ability to transmit these impulses.This is assumed to be a contributing factor to muscle cramps as it causes longer contractions. Potassium aids in the initiation and termination of muscular contractions. This balance can be upset by low blood potassium levels, which can result in cramps—long, uncontrollable contractions.
  • Digestive Issues: Potassium facilitates brain-to-muscle communication, vital for digestion.Low potassium levels can cause the digestive system’s contractions to weaken and cause food to move more slowly. Potassium deficiency can impede food’s passage through the digestive tract, which can lead to problems like bloating and constipation.
  • Abnormal Heartbeat: Your heart rate is mostly controlled by potassium.This is so because potassium’s movement into and out of heart cells aids in heartbeat regulation. A heart arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, may result from extremely low potassium levels and may indicate a dangerous cardiac problem.
  • Breathing Troubles: You may have shortness of breath if your blood potassium levels are really low because your lungs may not react to oxygen adequately.A severe potassium deficit might potentially cause death by stopping the lungs from functioning.Being low in potassium can cause breathlessness since it aids in the expansion and contraction of the lungs.
  • Numbness and Tingling: Persistent tingling and numbness can also occur in those with potassium insufficiency.A healthy nervous system depends on potassium. Nerve signals can be weakened by low blood levels, which can cause tingling and numbness, which could indicate compromised nerve function.
  • Polyuria, or the need to urinate frequently: Peeing more than normal is a symptom of polyuria.The kidneys eliminate waste from your body through urine and maintain proper levels of fluid and electrolytes in your body. Your kidneys’ capacity to control the fluid and electrolyte balance in your body may occasionally be compromised by low potassium levels. You can therefore experience an increased urge to urinate.Lower potassium levels can be caused by excessive urine.
  • Elevated Blood Pressure: To keep blood pressure within normal ranges, electrolyte balance must be ideal.Potassium aids in the kidneys’ excretion of extra sodium through urine. Insufficient potassium causes the kidneys to reabsorb sodium back into the bloodstream, which over time may raise blood pressure.
  • Increased Thirst or Polydipsia: Your body’s fluid and electrolyte balance is maintained by the kidneys. Polydipsia, or excessive thirst, can be brought on by low potassium levels.Low potassium might occasionally affect your kidneys’ capacity to control the fluid and electrolyte balance in your body.
  •  Upset Stomach: Your bowel movements may become irregular if your potassium levels are low. Painful cramps, bloating, and constipation may result from low potassium levels in the body.

Complications of Low Potassium

Issues like the following can arise from a severe or protracted potassium shortage:

  • Permanent renal damage
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Elevated blood pressure

An extreme low level of potassium may be fatal.

Treatment of Low Potassium

In case of a mild problem, your doctor may probably recommend potassium pills to take orally. You could require intravenous (IV) potassium if your illness is severe.

Consuming meals high in potassium can help prevent and treat potassium deficiency. These foods consist of: avocados, baked potatoes, bananas,carrots,cooked lean meat, milk, oranges, and peanut butter. Consuming green leafy vegetables also helps in increasing potassium levels.


Low potassium, can lead to issues with muscular function, digestion, and heart health, among other bodily functions. Effective management of low potassium requires awareness of its symptoms, comprehension of its cause, and timing of seeking medical attention when necessary.

Potassium levels may be raised using dietary modifications and pharmaceutical procedures. The core reason for low potassium must be identified and treated, though, which means consulting a healthcare provider. Low potassium is treatable and potential issues can be prevented with appropriate care.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can my doctor determine whether my potassium levels are low?

To determine whether you have hypokalemia, your doctor will need to run a blood test. They’ll enquire about your medical background. They’ll want to know if you’ve ever experienced diarrhoea or vomiting as a result of an illness. They will inquire about any underlying medical concerns you may be experiencing.

What can I do to increase my potassium levels?

Eating a diet rich in potassium-containing foods will lower your chance of having hypokalemia. Talk to your doctor about your nutrition. Numerous fruits and vegetables, lean meats and seafood, dairy products, and legumes are foods high in potassium.

What’s in store for me if I have low potassium?

Potassium supplements should assist in treating hypokalemia if it is mild. Don’t forget to maintain a potassium-rich diet.

Potassium injected via vein should be used to treat a more serious illness. Extremely low potassium levels might result in major cardiac rhythm issues if treatment is not received. Furthermore, paralysis that could be fatal could happen.

Disclaimer: We recommend consulting a Doctor before taking any action based on the above shared information.


Chat with us!
Chat with us