What Are the Side Effects of Potassium?


Quick Answer

Potassium, when taken in the prescribed dosage amount, can lead to mild gastrointestinal side effects such as nausea, diarrhea and stomach ache, according to WebMD. However, taking potassium in dosages exceeding the maximum recommended amount can lead to serious side effects including extreme fatigue, paralysis and in some cases, death.

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What Are the Side Effects of Potassium?
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Full Answer

Often prescribed as an oral supplement to combat low levels of potassium associated with hypokalemia, potassium has few side effects when taken in appropriate amounts, notes WebMD. With proper usage, the most commonly reported side effects are limited to minor gastrointestinal discomfort, with symptoms including stomach cramps, gas, vomiting and diarrhea.

Taking a larger dose of potassium than the prescribed amount can lead to dangerous side effects, some of which can be potentially fatal. These include a lowered heart rate and altered heart beat, respiratory difficulty, unaccustomed fatigue, disorientation and a prickling sensation, usually centered on the lips as well as the feet and hands, reports Mayo Clinic. A distended abdomen, darkened stool, clammy skin and an unusually pallid, gray complexion are also signs of serious complications from potassium overdose, notes MedlinePlus. In rare cases, paralysis or death have resulted from overuse of potassium, according to WebMD.

Potassium supplements should not be taken by those who suffer from GI tract disorders which affect their rate of digestion as this could result in a toxic build-up of potassium levels, notes WebMD. Potassium can also interact with water pills and certain blood pressure medications such as Zestril and Diovan, leading to dangerously elevated levels of potassium in the bloodstream.

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