A blood or urine test performed by a health care professional provides a reliable reading of potassium levels, according to WebMD and Healthline. Potassium testing is commonly done to monitor or help diagnose a wide variety of health conditions.
Eating a balanced diet normally provides sufficient potassium, explains WebMD. If potassium levels are too low, it commonly takes time for levels to rise again. This can result in dangerously low levels of potassium because potassium is still being lost in the urine. Potassium is essential for the proper function of nerves and muscles in the body. It also helps maintain the balance of water and electrolytes in the body.
Potassium levels that are too high or too low can be dangerous and cause serious side effects, including changes in the rhythm of the heart, paralysis and confusion, states WebMD and Healthline. Potential symptoms that suggest potassium may be either too high or too low include muscle cramps, low blood pressure, nausea and the frequent need to urinate. Potassium levels can change due to severe vomiting, some medications, blood pH and hormone levels. Serious conditions such as kidney failure or some cancer treatments can also affect potassium levels. High sodium levels often cause potassium levels to decrease, while low sodium levels cause potassium levels to increase.