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What are the symptoms of potassium deficiency?

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Symptoms of potassium deficiency, also known as hypokalemia, include numbness or tingling, muscle damage and weakness, fatigue, heart palpitations, and constipation, according to MedlinePlus. The heartbeat may become abnormal, and extremely low potassium leads to slowing of the heartbeat. If potassium levels get low enough, the heart stops entirely.

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If a low potassium level is suspected, a doctor may perform blood tests or use an electrocardiogram to check for heart trouble, notes MedlinePlus.

People take in potassium through the diet, and they need it for proper cellular function, as stated by MedlinePlus. If potassium levels get too high, the kidneys filter out the excess amount to ensure a proper balance. When potassium levels drop, potential culprits include sweating, an antibiotic regimen, vomiting or diarrhea, excessive use of laxatives, chronic kidney disease or diuretics. Bulimia and other eating disorders also have potassium deficiency as a risk.

Mild cases of hypokalemia are often treated with oral potassium supplements, reports MedlinePlus. In severe cases, the doctor can also order intravenous potassium supplementation. People who use diuretics regularly sometimes need to change to a formulation that does not remove potassium. The doctor can also prescribe potassium supplements. Getting potassium from the diet requires eating such foods as bananas, avocados, oranges, peanut butter, tomatoes and cooked lean beef.

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