What is hypokalemia : symptoms, causes

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  1. How is visible hypokalemia treated on the ECG?
  2. What are the signs of hypokalemia?
  3. What are the risk factors for hypokalemia?
  4. How is hypokalemia diagnosed?
  5. Who is at risk for hypokalemia?
  6. What is the difference between hyperkalemia
    1. How are hypokalemia and hyperkalemia treated?
  7. You may be interested:

How is visible hypokalemia treated on the ECG?

What is hypokalemia?

Hypokalemia is a disorder of fluids and electrolytes that occurs primarily in adults. It is a decrease in the amount of potassium in the blood.

hypokalemia

Photo by Niko Twisty from Pexels

Potassium is essential for muscle contraction and therefore for the contraction of the heart.

Here are the best foods that contain potassium:

  • Bananas
  • Potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • Sugar free chocolate powder
  • Concentrated tomato paste and tomato puree
  • Vegetables
  • Figs, dates, raisins and dried apricots
  • Soya
  • Parsley
  • 70% of dark cocoa chocolate

Potassium deficiency is common in people with anorexia due to repeated vomiting. Digestive loss of potassium can also occur through urine and diarrhea or when taking certain medications.

Hypokalemia is related to hypertension, which causes high blood pressure. If left untreated, hypokalemia can worsen and lead to heart rhythm complications (sometimes even cardiac arrest).

Therefore, it is important to recognize the symptoms of prehypocalyemia as early as possible.

What are the signs of hypokalemia?

Hypokalemia may go unnoticed, but there are warning signs that the body is malfunctioning.

The symptoms of hypokalemia are usually constipation, abnormal fatigue, muscle pain, cramps, spasms, tingling or dizziness, feeling of heart palpitations or feeling dizzy.

When these symptoms appear, it is recommended that a test be done to diagnose the problem.

The health professional who administers this blood test checks your levels of potassium, glucose, magnesium, calcium, sodium, phosphorus, aldosterone, and thyroid hormone.

To detect hypokalemia, the electrocardiogram (ECG) is essential to establish an overall examination of the heart's condition.

Using an electrocardiograph, the medical test consists of recording the heart's electrical activity by means of ten electrodes placed on the patient's body: one on each of the four limbs and another six placed on the chest.

The ECG is used to diagnose both hypokalemia and hyperkalemia.

What are the risk factors for hypokalemia?

James L. Lewis, an attending physician at Brookwood Baptist Health and Saint Vincent's Ascension Health in Birmingham, presents in an article published on the MSD Manuals website, the different causes of the onset of hypokalemia.

He explains that despite what people may think, diuretics are by far the best medication to use in case of hypokalemia. There are 3 types of diuretics:

  • Thiazide diuretics
  • Cove Diuretics
  • Osmotic diuretics

Overuse of laxatives can cause frequent loose bowel movements.

Other drugs that can cause hypokalemia include

  • Amphotericin B
  • Anti-pseudomonal penicillin (e.g., carbenicillin)
  • High doses of penicillin
  • Theophylline (acute and chronic intoxication)

The intake of certain plants (licorice, senna, sea buckthorn, boldo...) is also a risk factor for hypokalemia.

Find all this article published on the MANUELS MSD website:

How is hypokalemia diagnosed?

In order to detect hypokalemia, an interview is first conducted with specific questions.

The electrocardiogram (ECG) is essential to establish an overall test of the heart's condition.

Using an electrocardiograph, the medical test consists of recording the heart's electrical activity by means of ten electrodes placed on the patient's body: one on each of the four limbs and another six placed on the chest.

The ECG is used to diagnose both hypokalemia and hyperkalemia.

Who is at risk for hypokalemia?

According to Loannis Katerinis, who published in the Swiss Medical Journal 2007, volume 32113, hypokalemia is a disease with a very common hydroelectric disorder, present in 20% of hospitalized people and 40% of patients treated with thiazide diuretics.

What is the difference between hyperkalemia

Unlike hypokalemia, hyperkalemia defines too high a level of potassium in the blood.

This surplus is due to the body producing an abnormally high rate because it is poorly distributed in the cells. The kidneys take care of this distribution and regulate the potassium by eliminating it little by little.

To detect it, hyperkalemia has the same symptoms as hypokalemia and the same risks if it is not detected in time.

Therefore, it is essential to perform an ECG as soon as an increase or decrease in potassium is suspected.

How are hypokalemia and hyperkalemia treated?

Depending on your condition, your health care provider will prescribe potassium pills to be taken by mouth or injected into a vein.

If you are in a state of hypokalemia, it is essential to eat foods containing potassium as we have seen before (mushrooms, potatoes, avocado, etc.).

Treatment of hyperkalemia consists of an ECG test to protect the heart from ventricular fibrillation with an injection of calcium salt, administration of potassium exchange resins and emergency dialysis.

If the condition is not urgent, hypercalemic medications and foods containing too much potassium should be discontinued.

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