What are the common signs and symptoms of hypokalemia (low potassium level)?

Updated: Dec 06, 2018
  • Author: Eleanor Lederer, MD, FASN; Chief Editor: Vecihi Batuman, MD, FASN  more...
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Answer

Regardless of the cause, hypokalemia produces similar signs and symptoms. Because potassium is overwhelmingly an intracellular cation and a variety of factors can regulate the actual serum potassium concentration, an individual can incur very substantial potassium losses without exhibiting frank hypokalemia. For example, diabetic ketoacidosis results in a significant potassium deficit; however, serum potassium in a patient presenting with diabetic ketoacidosis is rarely low and frequently is frankly elevated.

Conversely, hypokalemia does not always reflect a true deficit in total body potassium stores. Acute insulin administration can drive potassium into cells transiently, producing short-lived hypokalemia but not signifying potassium depletion.


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