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What are the symptoms of hypokalemia?

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Quick Answer

Hypokalemia, a condition of low blood potassium, usually has no symptoms in mild levels, although some sufferers may experience weakness, constipation, fatigue and muscle cramping, states Healthline. In very low levels, however, people with cardiac complaints experience arrhythmia. Normal blood potassium levels range between 3.6 and 5.2 millimoles per liter.

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Full Answer

Hypokalemia, or nephritis, occurs when levels of the electrolyte potassium in the blood fall below normal because of loss through sweating, urine and bowel movements, explains Healthline. The most common cause of the condition is due to diuretic use, while other causes include excessive use of laxatives, diarrhea, vomiting, consuming large amounts of caffeine and gastrointestinal infections.

Potassium is essential to maintaining proper body functions of the cells, and people get it from the food they eat, notes MedlinePlus. To keep potassium levels balanced in the body, the kidneys remove any excess amounts from the blood into the urine.

Diagnosis of hypokalemia is through blood tests that check for potassium, calcium, glucose and thyroid hormone levels, according to MedlinePlus. Doctors treat mild hypokalemia by prescribing oral potassium pills to patients and recommending they eat potassium-rich foods such as avocados, bananas, peanut butter, seaweed and spinach. In severe cases, doctors administer potassium through intravenous, or IV, therapy.

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