What Are the Effects of Potassium Deficiency?

Eating fruits, such as bananas, can prevent a potassium deficiency.
People with a potassium deficiency can also become sensitive to salt, causing high blood pressure.
Taking laxatives often can cause a magnesium deficiency, which may contribute to the development of a potassium deficiency.
Vegetables such as peas are a good source of potassium.
Salmon is high in potassium.
White beans, which are a good source of potassium.
Apricots are a concentrated source of potassium.
Yellow tomatoes contain potassium.
Potato skins contain potassium.
A potassium deficiency could lead feelings of tiredness and weakness.
Foot cramps could point to a potassium deficiency.
Tangerines are a good source of potassium.
Potassium deficiency can cause confusion.
Sardines are a good natural source of potassium.
Melons are high in potassium.
Article Details
  • Originally Written By: Damir Wallener
  • Revised By: O. Wallace
  • Edited By: L. S. Wynn
  • Last Modified Date: 27 November 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Potassium is a mineral that helps maintain the water and acid balance in blood and tissue cells, assists in muscle building, and transmits electrical signals between cells and nerves. Symptoms of hypokalemia, or potassium deficiency, include dry skin, muscle weakness, fatigue, and slow reflexes. If the deficiency develops rapidly or is left unchecked, heart problems and paralysis may result. Hypokalemia is a very serious condition which requires immediate medical attention.

Effects on Blood Pressure, Skin, and Bones

When a person suffers from a mild potassium deficiency, he or she may not have any symptoms. People with low potassium can develop a sensitivity to salt or sodium, however, which can lead to high blood pressure. Abnormally dry skin can also be caused by low potassium, as the mineral plays an important role in maintaining fluid levels in cells. Potassium is also necessary for bone health, as it prevents the alkaline compounds found in bones from being used up by the body's natural metabolic acids; low potassium is associated with an increased risk for osteoporosis.

Fatigue, Irritability, and Confusion

People with potassium deficiency may also feel tired and weak. The mineral helps the body to use glucose, its main source of energy, so when this process isn't working correctly, it can leave a person feeling run down. In addition to fatigue, when the muscles don't have enough energy to work correctly, they can become weak and achy.

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As an electrolyte, potassium plays a key role in the movement of electrical impulses throughout the body. When a person has low potassium, those impulses may slow down or not travel as they should. This may lead to irritability, anxiety, confusion, and depression, which may only worsen when combined with other effects, like tiredness and weakness.

Muscle Symptoms

Potassium plays a key role in muscle contraction, so a deficiency of this mineral can cause a range of muscular symptoms. Slow reflexes, cramps, twitches, and spasms are all effects of potassium deficiency. Problems with the legs during sleep, including restless leg syndrome and charley horses — strong, sudden cramps in the calf muscles — may also be worse in people who do not get enough of this mineral.

Over time, a severe potassium deficiency can even cause damage to the muscles themselves, causing the fibers to break down. This can lead to rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which proteins from the muscle fiber are released into the bloodstream. These proteins can damage the kidneys and, in serious cases, cause kidney failure.

Paralysis and Digestive System Problems

Low potassium can also result in paralysis, as the mineral is essential for the transport of electrical signals that allow muscle movement. Paralysis can occur in any part of the body, but is particularly associated with the digestive system. When parts of this system become paralyzed, food cannot be digested properly, leading to stomach and intestinal cramps, constipation, and bloating.

Thyrotoxic periodic paralysis can also occur, which is caused by an excess of thyroid hormone in the body. Treating this excess of the thyroid hormone raises the levels of potassium in the body, which should improve the muscle weakness and paralysis. Another type of paralysis, hypokalemic periodic paralysis, is a congenital condition caused by low potassium levels. In these cases, the potassium deficiency is not caused by illness or diet, but is due to an abnormal transfer of potassium between blood and muscle cells.

Heart Problems

One of the most dangerous effects of a potassium deficiency is that it can cause the heart to beat abnormally, called dysrhythmia. A person with dysrhythmia may experience a sudden fast heartbeat, chest pain, and dizziness. This is a potentially life threatening condition, as it can cause cardiac arrest and cause the heart to stop beating completely.

Causes

Known causes of hypokalemia include excessive diarrhea, sweating, and vomiting. Using diuretics and laxatives, as well as eating disorders such as bulimia, may cause a magnesium deficiency, which may be a contributing factor to developing this condition. Some antibiotics and other medications can cause this condition as well. Diseases that inhibit the kidney's potassium retention capabilities, such as Liddle syndrome, hyperaldosteronism, and Cushing syndrome, all can cause a potassium deficiency, as can hyperthyroidism, an illness that causes the thyroid to produce too much hormone.

Treatment

When potassium deficiency can be attributed to a specific disease or vomiting and diarrhea, a health care professional can usually treat the underlying conditions, and ensure that there is sufficient potassium in the diet. If medication is the cause, a change in prescription may be possible in some cases, or a high potassium diet may be recommended. Mineral supplements may also be necessary if the patient cannot get enough potassium through diet alone. In severe cases, potassium may be administered intraveneously.

Foods that are high in potassium include beef, chicken, and fish such as cod, salmon, and sardines. Good vegetable sources include peas, tomatoes, leafy greens, lima beans and potato skins. Bananas, seaweed, melons, apricots, and citrus fruits are also rich in potassium. Dried fruits such as mangoes and apricots provide concentrated sources of potassium, as do nuts and chocolate.

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awilmot2003
Post 111

My name is Audrey and I live in California. On Friday I was very ill suddenly. I had nausea, extreme vomiting, diarrhea and was sweaty. My heart was racing and my skin was cold and clammy. I rushed to the hospital and they thought I was having a heart attack.

They drew blood right away and hooked me up to cardiac stuff. The test came back and showed my potassium level was 1.79. They said I could have died. Wow. I was immediately started on potassium over the next two days. I had five bags of it and was released from the hospital. They said they thought it happened from my hydrochloro meds, but I find that confusing. Why, after 10 years of taking the drug would that happen? Now I'm off it and started lisinopril. I have pretty bad headaches and feel very, very tired still. When I was released from the hospital, they had my levels to 4.0. That was four days ago. When will I feel better, and was this as life threatening as they said? Thanks. -- resting and recuperating

anon356717
Post 110

I have had issues with my potassium ever since I had my accident in 2010. I had extreme swelling to my face due to a blow from a auto accident. Anyway, I try to eat things that will bring up my potassium and good diet but it seems like my body is rejecting everything that I am eating I am also taking prescription potassium. Is anyone else having this problem?

anon348026
Post 108

I am 42 and I have to take 24 potassium pills at 10mg a day along with eating 2000 to 2400 calories of potassium enriched foods just to stay out of the hospital. My kidneys will not hold on to magnesium or potassium.

I'm having fewer trips to the hospital because of the extra potassium, calories and pills, but the doctors are not finding out why my kidneys won't hold on to these things. It is a pain, but I will continue this regimen because the IV burns.

anon346629
Post 106

Is a potassium level of 2.7 dangerous?

anon345923
Post 105

I am concerned that people are recommending sugary foods for those with low potassium, because my low potassium is the result of sugar intake. I am on potassium tablets, and I sometimes have to take several per day. However, I believe it is the type of sugar that depletes my potassium.

For example, if I drink iced tea from a fast food restaurant or oranges, my potassium depletes quickly, and I can be laid out for days. But if I eat some candies or brownies, I do not have a problem. Some days when I am laid out on the bed, and my husband has to give me potassium tablets, because I simply cannot move. I can hear, but I feel like I'm in a coma and I cannot move my limbs.

I avoid sugar as much as possible. I only have it twice a week, at home, and only if I have protein and potassium before, during, and after the snack or drink. No one else in my family has this issue. I am researching to see if there is a catalyst that I can avoid or can be corrected by medication, so that my low potassium issue will be eliminated.

If you find causes for why sugar depletes potassium, please let me know.

anon343554
Post 104

@post103: I had almost the exact same thing happen to me. Mine felt more like my appendix had bust open or something. I was by myself at the time so I called a buddy from down the street at about 3AM and he took me into the emergency room. On the way the pain had started to subside and I felt like I was whining about nothing. But they ran some tests and caught the low potassium issue. God that was so painful. It's probably the worst pain I have ever felt in my abdomen.

anon335075
Post 103

About six months ago, I woke up in the middle of the night with horrible stomach cramps. When I got up out of bed, I fell straight to the floor. I tried to get up but after about three steps, I fell again. I was extremely dizzy and my heart was racing. I woke my wife up and told her something was very wrong. I thought I was having a heart attack. I started sweating profusely. I could not stand up and felt I was very close to losing consciousness. I had my wife call an ambulance. I thought I was a goner.

After about 25 minutes, the symptoms started to ease a bit after the ambulance arrived. When I get to the hospital, my EKG was normal and my blood pressure and pulse had stabilized. When my lab work came back it said I had a 2.8 potassium. The physician gave me some potassium pills and sent me home. They did not seem concerned at all. I am sure it sounded strange to them and it was to me also. Thirty minutes prior, I was sure I was dead, and now I am fine.

Fast forward six months. I have had no symptoms at all and I am again awakened in bed by a rapid heartbeat and mild cramps. I stood up and same thing happened again. I had the exact symptoms except I seemed to have more shortness of breath this time., like hyperventilation. After 20 minutes, I was able to crawl to the car and get in.

My wife took me to the ER and it was the same scenario. My potassium was only 3.2 that time. I am 42 years old and a type 2 diabetic. I have chronic diarrhea because of the metformin I believe, and I think my potassium is getting leached from my body. I am actually a laboratory director so I can check my blood chemistries regularly. My cardiac enzymes are all normal even after 24 hours. I am back to normal again.

This is so frightening. I am glad I read some of your stories because the ER docs don't take me seriously, I believe. They give me a pill and say eat bananas. I can guarantee if they had experienced what I had, that they would feel different. I am not exaggerating in any way. I literally felt I was close to death with the shortness of breath, dizziness and basically, paralysis. I wanted to tell my story also, because my levels were not extremely low but I had an extreme reaction to it. I also did not have any true muscle cramping, just fatigue.

anon326750
Post 102

V8 has one of the highest Potassium Chloride amounts in any drink.

Most Potassium supplements (pills) are of a lesser quantity Potassium Gluconate. These pills are not worth a penny.

Go for V8. It's very bioavailable. If you are deficient, you'll feel the effects in minutes.

Too much potassium interferes with ionic processes in the body - mainly muscles. Too much and your heart will stop.

For those who are under chronic stress: Cortisol, a stress hormone, when chronically elevated can lead to Pseudo-Cushing's Syndrome. Cushing's Syndrome results in potassium deficiency.

If you're stressed, you need Potassium. Concerned about the details? Consult your MD/GP.

anon305417
Post 100

Thanks be to God. I came to read this site, as I am very worried about my potassium. I had my potassium checked four months ago, with the level of 2.20, and I was so afraid after doing the research, that low potassium can kill.

I realized that low potassium is the reason why my older brother died (we had the same sickness). Last week, I again experienced this so-called paralysis. I could not really even move my hands. I didn't go to the hospital. I just stayed at home, and three days later, I regained my strength.

I also had a urinary tract infection, and I had kidney stones (five in the left side, eight in the right side). Is that the reason why I had this low potassium? I also had discomfort during breathing. Is this deficiency hereditary? My brother and cousin had this deficiency also.

anon289032
Post 99

To the person that asked if too much potassium is harmful, the answer is yes. While low potassium is dangerous and sometimes fatal, high potassium is as well. It can cause the same signs and symptoms as low potassium. A high dose of potassium is used as a lethal injection, causing the body's muscles to shut down and go into cardiac arrest.

I would just like to say that I am sorry and feel for everyone who has to deal with low potassium at any point in their life. I am a 31 year old female and I have an extensive medical history dealing with hypothyroidism, kidney cancer, gastroparesis (slowed gastric emptying), two TIAs (minor strokes), two small bowel obstructions, to name a few of the bigger issues that I have had since I was 26. I am now in the process of dealing with hypokalemia and have been for months now.

Due to my digestive issues I have had low potassium levels in the past and had to get IV potassium chloride and it would fix the problem for a while, but now it doesn't want to stay up. They have run blood tests on me to see if they could find a cause for the depletion of potassium and occasionally, my other electrolytes would be low. Magnesium is important in the process of potassium absorption. When it is low, most likely (but not always) your potassium is as well. It is important that your doctor check your magnesium levels when your potassium is expected to be low, because you may need to be on a supplement of magnesium to help keep the potassium up.

My potassium and magnesium are checked on Mondays and Thursdays because I have to go to the hospital on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday to receive IV infusions of potassium. I am currently receiving 80 Meqs over a four hour period. Since March it has increased from 10 Meq to 80 Meq to keep it up in normal range. I have trouble holding down the 60 Meq of Klor Con daily by mouth.

I also receive my thyroid medication, Protonix, and Phenergan by IV when I go for my infusions. So most of my day I get to aggravate the staff in the outpatient unit, but they love me just the same!

I am sorry for rambling on, but just wanted to let you guys know that you are not alone and hopefully some of what I have posted will be beneficial to anyone who reads it. I hope that things get better and you get well!

anon287524
Post 98

A tablespoon of unsulphured, blackstrap molasses has 17 percent of your recommended daily value of potassium, more than a supplement.

For those of you with a potassium deficiency, you may want to try the molasses. Make sure you get the unsulphured blackstrap molasses, though. Most stores carry sulfured/refined molasses which doesn't contain the same amount of nutrients. It has a strong flavor, but if you mix it with milk or put it on oatmeal, it tastes pretty good.

anon285587
Post 97

I'm fifteen, and have had severe medical problems for years, but last year my potassium was the issue. Every month I'd be admitted to the hospital. I'd have freezing hands, fatigue, stomach cramps, body cramps and blackouts. The reason I had blackouts was my potassium went severely low. It went to 0.4. I was lucky to be alive.

As it gets lower, it affects more muscles and causes other symptoms. My brain was struggling to control all my muscles, and just went into shutdown. When your brain is getting insufficient oxygen, it causes blackouts.

The doctors gave me potassium intravenously by 40 mmol doses. I was on 24/7supervision due to the high dose but they had to raise the levels fast. I was in the hospital for weeks, and by the end of it, my potassium was high so they stopped the supplements and put me on a low potassium diet because having too much or too little potassium are both dangerous.

It's best to stay between 3.5-5.5.

anon285257
Post 96

Taking more potassium makes my dry eyes immediately feel better. v8 juice helps. nuun tablets added to water also do the trick. Water alone does nothing to help my eyes but potassium and water immediately make my eyes go from dry and irritated to just fine.

lucas2012
Post 95

I just saw an area to post a comment, and would like to share my events that took place this week due to low potassium (.9 to be exact). On Tuesday night, the girlfriend and I settled down for the night, and 20 minutes later, I told her my legs felt tight. We thought nothing more of it and went back to sleep. The next morning, I woke up at 7 a.m. and tried to stand to my feet, and hit the floor. It was like someone pulled my legs out from under me. I managed to get back on my feet to go to the washroom, made it 10 feet and the same thing happened -- I was down on the floor.

My girlfriend got my father to give her a hand to move me from the room to the car to take me to the hospital. We got to the hospital outpatient department and I was taken in as priority. The doctor shows up and thinks I have a pinched nerve in my back (I had a severe four-wheeler accident eight years ago). He gave me two shots of morphine and one shot of steroids, we waited 20 minutes and he said I should try to stand. Perfect. We are on our way. We left the hospital around 9 a.m.

I got home, did my normal daily routine, which included yard work involving removing old, dead trees from the yard in to my pickup truck, which wasn’t too light. I was also was able to install my girlfriend’s new sound system into her car without one hint of pain. After I finished, we went out for supper, came home at 11 p.m. and once again got ready for bed. All was fine until 3:30 a.m. when I needed to use the washroom. I wake up and guess what? I could not move one single limb including my neck. It was like I was paralyzed. I woke up my girlfriend and told her I couldn’t move, so she got up and tried pulling me upright, which she could do with what little help I could give her.

I asked her to drag me over to one of my home audio speakers and I’d try to get my body standing up by climbing up on it (because at this time we knew there was no doubt about it -- we are going to the hospital). But no matter how hard I tried, I had zero strength in my body to pull me up. In fact, I ended up falling on the floor. I had her drag me over to the door (which on a unfinished plywood floor is not easy). And once again she called dad into the room for help. They tried for 10 minutes to pick me up off the floor and place me in my computer chair to move me to the car. Nothing. I was just dead weight. I even tried, and I mean tried in tears to climb up the wall unit that is fastened to the wall and nothing. I was useless.

So they called for a ambulance, and 40 minutes later they show up, from the closest town. They loaded me into the back and we were on the way. My girlfriend was behind in the car. Halfway to the hospital I told the EMTs my hearing is going and my vision is going weird. Of course, with the rough roads we have here in Newfoundland, Canada, they couldn’t do much but hit the gas pedal and get me there faster.

By about 5 a.m., I was in observation on a bed. We’d been there five minutes and I told my girlfriend my hearing was strange and my vision was blurred. Just as I said that, the lab tech came in for the first round of blood for tests. After she was done, the overnight doctor came in and said he was going to pass this off to the doctor who saw you yesterday and he will be in 10 minutes. I said that was fine. About 15 minutes later he shows up and started taking my vital signs and said he will be right back.

By this time I had to go to the washroom, so I had the nurse being me in a bottle to use and asked my girlfriend if she could take off my pants, pull down my underwear, and give me a few minutes and she said sure. About half way through, I stopped. I said to her (as she was on the other side of the curtain), “Danica, my chest is tight. Danica, my chest is getting really, really tight. I need help.”

Then the lab tech comes in again (from what I was told, they thought they had a false test so they wanted to double check) and they both looked at me and said you don’t look right. The lab tech ran for a nurse. Then I had a seizure, and it lasted 5 minutes and nine seconds. In my girlfriend’s words, I was out. The nurses came over and then the doctor on call ran over. Four minutes into the seizure, the lab tech ran back in to the room and said, “Get him on potassium and get him on it now! He’s at 1.2!” My blood pressure was at 113/34. I was put on two bags of potassium and put in ICU for the day/night. By 11 p.m., my level was back to 5.2 and I was taken off potassium and left to rest till the next day. The next day, the hospital internist comes in and talked to me about what was going on. He finished by telling me if I had been 10 minutes later in getting to the hospital, there was a good possibility he would not be talking to me right now.

This is the shortest I can get with this, but I just want to show people how important potassium is to a human, and the nasty effects the lack of it can have on you. If you’re getting any cramps while trying to sleep, weird tingling in your finger and toes (which I forgot to say I did have that night), get it checked out. Heck, about a week ago I didn’t even know what potassium and magnesium were for, and that’s the sad part.

I have a couple of follow ups with both my family doctor and my internist, and I will be sure to keep you guys informed. As far as knowing if there was any brain damage during my seizure, I seem to remember everything. I was able to name every one at the bed when I woke up, including the nurse’s first names and the doctor’s name. Good sign.

I had to get this out to show what Hypokalemia can do. Oh, I’m 29, if that helps.

anon244741
Post 94

I suffer from Gitelman's Syndrome, a very rare autosomal, recessive kidney disorder resulting in hypokalemia and hypomagnesemia.

I am 16 weeks pregnant and last week was in hospital having K and mag infusions (something I've had to do all my life). Despite taking potassium and magnesium oral supplements as well as the IVs (about 12 bags infused in three days) my levels went up and are now back to K 2.5 and Mag 0.51. I am waiting to see the neurologist again with a plan to get my levels up by maybe taking Amiloride again, which, despite being a diuretic, increases levels in this condition.

I worry about the effects of my levels dropping further and what harm this will do to my developing baby. Always get yourself checked out.

I was lucky I had a vigilant mother who knew something was wrong with me as a child and persisted until she got me diagnosed with Gitelman's Syndrome, so I was put on treatment from a young age. Low levels can cause all sorts of symptoms and complications which can be life threatening.

anon226894
Post 93

For those of you who have suffered through the burning sensation with the potassium IV, suggest a much slower drip rate to the nurse. This will alleviate the burning sensation.

anon197520
Post 92

I get cramps throughout my body (neck, back, ribcage etc.) and not just in my legs. It's beyond excruciating and I've gotten supplements thinking that would help.

I reside in the high desert of California and I sweat profusely during the summer or when exerting myself too much and I drink well over a half gallon of water daily. Finally I bought some Pedialyte and when I feel my cramps coming on I drink a few ounces of the Pedialyte and within two minutes I can literally feel the cramping subside. It's not clear if I have a bigger problem (electrolyte?) but for now I have a love affair with Pedialyte because it has saved me from the awful pain.

anon193838
Post 91

I have had leg cramps and found that magnesium, potassium and calcium help me eliminate them. I am 55 years old and seem to have problems assimilating nutrients from food. So, I believe in taking supplements, herbs and mineral salts. Online it shows the side effects on magnesium as follows: Symptoms can include leg cramps, migraines, fatigue, loss of appetite, depression, nausea and vomiting or high blood pressure.

anon177579
Post 90

I just got home from a bout in the hospital ICU. I was diagnosed with a stroke and given the drug TPA which reversed the effects of the stroke (left side did not work, speech slurred, terrific headache). While in ICU they did blood work and found my potassium was very low. I was administered it in my IV.

The pain was almost unbearable but my nurse was able to slow it down and irrigate the IV site and we made it though that bag. Later that night a nurse hung a bag while I was asleep. I awoke with terrific pain in my arm. I was begging them to stop it which they finally did before the bag was empty. After two weeks at home my arm where the IV was is black, swollen and has a large ridge along the vein. Hope I never have to go through that again. I told the nurses that if they brought in another bag I would run out the door (at the time I could not walk, but I would have tried).

anon177391
Post 89

my sister's been having leg cramps for years,and she used to drink coffee all the time and she would cry about leg cramps every day and she wouldn't know why they would hurt, but now i think it just could be a potassium deficiency.

anon173741
Post 88

I have been reading a lot of the postings on here and I just want to add one word of caution. I am a 43 year old male who suffered from high blood pressure for about seven years (severe). I always went to my doc(s) like a good boy, saw cardiologists, and others, and had maybe 20 ER visits in about three years for worsening high blood pressure and every single time I had a low potassium, sometimes dangerously.

Making it more poignant, I am a physician assistant myself and asked and looked and "suggested", but I can't write myself my own scripts so I did as I was told. After all these years, I finally hit bottom and it was discovered I have Conn's syndrome. Anyone with resistant high blood pressure (doesn't have to be severe) and low potassium must be checked for hyperaldosteronism! i.e., Conn's syndrome. I never was.

All I needed was spironolactone as it blocks aldosterone which was causing the high pressure and it pushes out potassium. But both can kill. I had zero risk factors for HTN (like smoking, drugs, history, heart trouble, etc) and they never looked for Conn's. I had suggested it but they always blew me off.

Don't disregard a low potassium if there is no reason to have a low one (like on diuretics). I was on five blood pressure pills at the time they found it, but not the right one!

anon169735
Post 87

I was taking a prescription diuretic and felt weak, dizzy and had to go to the ER. My potassium was 1 point something and I had to get a potassium drip for almost a week. They mixed the drip with lidocaine, so it did not hurt very much. I remember the doctor on duty must prescribe this initially when you start the potassium drip. So if anyone has to go back to the ER for this, ask for the lidocaine mixed in. It makes a huge difference.

anon169187
Post 86

Glad I found this site. About nine months ago I experienced heart thumping, different than palpitations, and then they went away. It began happening in January again, this time with fatigue, joint pain and feeling flush most days.

I have been to a Cardiologist and had EKG's, ultrasounds, event monitors and all came back fine, although my heart keeps thumping, some days worse than others. My left eyelid also twitches at times, which I saw mentioned a few times.

All my blood work came back fine, although I am not sure if they tested for potassium. I had hormones tested, thinking at age 45 maybe perimenopause, but no. Very frustrating to feel so tired all the time and the heart thumping is annoying to say the least. Will try the banana and OJ every day and see if that helps.

anon168491
Post 85

I am a 39 year old woman. Back in early March I had a seizure type of feeling after about a week of runny nose and fever. I rushed to the ER. After doing various tests, they found that my potassium level was very low, 3.1. After giving me some potassium saline and K pills, I was discharged in about four hours. I was ok that day, but the next day I got the same bad weakness, and had to rush to ER again. Same low K problem. This time I had to stay at the hospital for a couple of days for more diagnosis.

I have been taking Norvasc for my high blood pressure for the last seven months. I got discharged without any other medicines. After about a week, my bad weakness got worse and again I had to rush to the ER. The ER doctor told me that it's simply anxiety and referred me some anxiety pills.

Now it's over a month and a half, and I am still on bed rest. I am taking some potassium supplement V-8 juice and bananas every day. Still feeling weak. Anyone out there having these kinds of symptoms? I am not sure how long this process would continue. I am in consultation with my PCP. No more progress.

anon167717
Post 84

Is there anyone out there taking Diaminopyridine 3.4 for Lambert Eaton Syndrome of Myasthenia Gravis? I am wondering what kind of side effects it might have and if it has helped anyone with heavy legs and eyes. I also want to know if it effects your red, white or platelet levels? --Debbie

anon162727
Post 83

I recently have had trouble with my potassium as well. I am a genuinely healthy person. Very active, I work out every day and eat a healthy diet. My weight is healthy at 125.

I have been under a considerable amount of stress this past year. I started having palpitations and severe weakness and fatigue. K was 3.4. I started drinking Ensure plus every day. I thought I was feeling better, then one day at the gym I became lethargic, disoriented and extremely weak and pale. I went to the ER and they told me I was fine except my potassium was 3.1. They prescribed me supplements of 20 meq twice a day. When it was rechecked a week later it was only up to 3.9.

I still continue to be extremely weak, and sometimes wonder if it's just all in my head. I'm very frustrated. This has happened one before when I was in nursing school and it dropped to 2.8. If anyone has any reasons or explanations please respond. So far everything has come back fine except K level.

nonnieree
Post 82

Wow, I really wish I had seen this site a year ago. For some time now, I have been experiencing some muscle weakness, increased night sweats, hunger and headaches.I had my first partial paralysis in January. I honestly thought it was a severe side effect from a med I was taking. The next morning I felt a bit better, but I was sore.

Two months later, I experienced complete paralysis, only being able to move my head slightly left and right. I still could breathe and blink on my own. My lips and tongue started to swell and before I knew it, I felt my heart pounding harder and harder. Next thing I knew, this hot feeling flooded my chest as my heart slowed and breathing became shallow.

Needless to say, I was rushed to the ER where they took blood and saw low potassium 1.2, magnesium, and phosphorous levels. After 6.5 bags of potassium, and a bag of magnesium and phosphorous, I was transported to the ICU. At this point, I am suspected of having hypokalemia, and thyrotoxicosis.

If you or anyone you know shows signs of weakness, extra eating, night sweats, chills, or anything else unusual, get them to the ER asap.

anon152599
Post 80

What causes your legs to feel like they are turning to jelly and you sometimes fall down and you can feel it in your lower back and from neck down you can feel pain at times.

anon152597
Post 79

Does anyone know why when you lie down your arms from shoulder down go to sleep? Also, what could be causing an excruciating throbbing pain in the left eye? Take medicines for BP, Cholesterol.

anon151034
Post 78

I was hoping if I posted my story, it might help those of you dealing with this recognize the early symptoms. I am a 36 year old female that was rushed to the hospital after having my fourth child with chest pain, severe twitching, and shortness of breath.

Earlier in the day, I had felt really dizzy but passed it off as recovering from a C-section. In the hospital, I was given a potassium drip over a four hour period and then pills and powder of the next day. They mixed my drip so I did not feel the feel any pain.

At that point, my level was 3.0 which is not horribly bad but it is the level at which they administer the IV potassium and I was told that everyone is different at what point their body experiences severe symptoms.

I have symptoms even at 3.4. It has been six months now and I have learned the symptoms very well. My first symptom is a slight tingling sensation in my cheek, if I ignore this it moves into lightheadedness, then I get twitching muscles in my legs, at no time have I had "cramping" in my muscles so I would hate for someone to ignore other symptoms because they are not getting cramping.

If i do not drink a glass of orange juice and eat a banana then I will start to get really cold all over, bone chilling cold, then the chest pain and shortness of breath starts, similar to a panic attack which they tried to tell me I was having at first.

Unfortunately, I have tried to control this through my diet (I idle at 3.9 with eating two bananas, two large glasses of orange juice, and a baked potato a day), but it is not working well enough and I am being recommended to a kidney doctor to do some further testing as my condition has worsened since I started working out.

I really feel for anyone going through this as it is extremely scary and I wish they had a home blood test you could do like diabetes patients have. I hope this helps.

anon139845
Post 76

I have HBP I went to emergency having a HBP of 186/106 and heart palpitations. My nurse Tabitha and Dr. Yates were great. The blood tests were done right away and my potassium was found to be low 2.9. I was given a drink of potassium followed by orange juice. Then the potassium Iv mixed with a saline solution. I felt no burning at all in fact I went to sleep. So thanks again to Palmdale Regional Hospital.

anon131960
Post 75

Kind of interesting that the FDA only allows 99 mg per dietary supplement and the body needs 2-3K daily.

anon128791
Post 74

Restless leg syndrome: Mine responds to a hemorrhoid suppository. Yep. Apparently the sciatic nerve lies too near the rectum for me, therefore as the medication is absorbed, the nerve gets some of it as well.

anon127192
Post 73

After a nuclear stress test in October, I suffered from strong palpitations for three weeks. My cardiologist wanted to do and angioplasty and stent, ballooning and by-pass if needed without any real strong evidence. he stated there was a possible mild to moderate blockage somewhere.

I declined to undergo aggressive tests and instead took statins and beta blockers with aspirin regime. After some reading and research, I thought that during the summer, I was slightly dehydrated with more than normal frequency of urination. Potassium deficiency was a possible culprit. I ate a lot of potassium rich food and now I feel I have brought the K levels back to normal. The blood test prior to stress test had shown no problems except cholesterol was 217. My BP was and is in 125-145/70-90 range.

anon125478
Post 72

for whoever stated the V8 drink, make sure you read the ingredients. as many v8 drinks I've seen contain high fructose corn syrup and other additives that really aren't necessary for a good fruit juice anyways. same for many yogurts.

anon123017
Post 71

I have found a healthy, delicious way to supplement potassium daily. One 8 ounce serving of low sodium V-8 juice has 850 mg of potassium. Very healthy, tasty and easy way to supplement. Also, one 8 oz. serving of milk has 400 mg potassium. Yogurt is also good, as are fresh vegetables and fruit.

anon112613
Post 70

RE: hypokalemic paralysis. No, it probably won't develop, actually. This paralysis is mainly genetic. You have it from birth. People rarely just up and get this.

So, don't believe everything you read on the web, or you're an idiot. See your damned doctor for pity's sake!

About too much potassium: Too much of anything you stick in your body can harmful, anonymous1193. just the same as too little. Moderation in all things, as one of the wise men of ancient Rome used to be fond of saying.

If you have any sort of kidney issues, are a diabetic, or have some other chronic internal disorder, you should be getting your blood tested at least once every six months, for things like potassium and red blood cell levels. Common sense, not hypochondria.

anon111022
Post 69

Coconut water works wonders for the cramps. I've been ordering in bulk through amazon and through their monthly program. That will save about 15 percent. I prefer Amy and Brian's coconut water (made from Thai Coconuts so a little sweeter), but Amazon carries them all.

anon108992
Post 68

If you have temporary weakness in your toes, hands, have pins and needles feeling, wake up with dead hands and feet like falling asleep feeling, joint pain for no reason, get your potassium checked. If it is below 3.5 you have hypokalemia and should be seen by a nephrologist, a kidney specialist to find out why, especially if you are not overly active i.e., exercise. Low k can be a result of several things and for some like me, a kidney disorder. Not knowing can kill you. Too low for some can stop your heart. do not take potassium on your own That can stop your heart too. I have a prescription of 20 meq or about 1700 mg of potassium. I take one daily or more. It affects my calcium levels as well.

For some it can affect magnesium levels. the more pop and caffeine you take the higher the risk. i now have a failing kidney because no one caught it in time. i have had bouts of fatigue off and on and fever like days one or two days then it would go away. get checked. A simple blood test can tell you for sure!

anon104202
Post 67

Low calcium and potassium is deadly. It can stop your heart and lung muscles. See hypokalemia. It almost killed me a year ago. i now take mega doses of potassium or k as we call it. i have to watch about sweating too much. heat is a killer. it affected my heart and kidneys. kiss the diuretic drinks goodbye or risk more damage. for children you need a neurologist and it is rare to have this.

anon99390
Post 66

To all who have leg cramps at night! I too, have leg cramps and possibly need potassium, however, my doctor hasn't given me anything for them.

While nursing a busted knee, trying to get some relief to sleep, I rolled up a towel and laid my feet on it! Wow, I got some relief from the cramps! Just to be sure, removed the towel and they came back!

This may or may not help you but any relief, however small, is worth a minute of time to roll up a towel and see if it will help.

anon91220
Post 65

I am a 49 year old healthy female. During the summer, i drink way too much tea, which is a natural diuretic. I didn't realize that my potassium level was dangerously low, until the other day, I told my husband I was feeling faint.

The next thing I remember is waking up screaming tied to a hospital bed. Apparently I passed out and went into convulsions. I had seized for over an hour and a half. I do not remember the ambulance ride or entering the E.R. During the blood work, they realized that my potassium levels were so low, they couldn't get a read.

After two days in the hospital and four bags of potassium later, I started to feel better. My heart doc told me that signs were there all along, I just didn't pay attention.

Trouble reading, leg cramps and finally heart starts to skip beats. I've also been warned not to raise my potassium levels too high, as that can be fatal too. My advice to anyone reading this is eat a banana and drink a glass of orange juice every day. Low potassium levels can mess you up bad. I never want to experience that again.

anon90864
Post 64

I had some chest pains, went to ER. There had a potassium drip through a IV port in my left arm. The potassium infiltrated my arm, and the burning pain was horrid. I complained a dozen times to the nurse, who assured me it was OK. My arm was swelling at point of infiltration, the pain was unbearable, and I asked for a cold wet towel to lay on it for the pain.

Was given a plastic bag of ice covered with a wet towel. From 2 a.m. to 6a.m. was in so much pain, the nurse gave me morphine every hour or so. Finally when she realized the port had infiltrated, she put a new IV port in, and it infiltrated too, but she would not believe me when I told her, and she took out the old port, and said, "well, Potassium feels like burning sometimes."

So, this IV of potassium infiltrated too! One horrid pain filled night with an ice bag on the arm. Next morning at 6 a.m., the day shift nurse comes in, looks at my arm, and I'm telling her it's on fire!

She yells at the night nurse, "get this ice bag off her arm, and go get wet hot packs and put on the arm, while I put a new IV port into her right arm". The warm wet towels felt wonderful.

During the night, I had a total of five or six low doses of morphine put into the IV so I wouldn't go nuts with the pain.

The night nurse apologized, and I told her I forgave her, but I'd felt like I'd been in a torture chamber all night long.

Good thing my chest pains wasn't my heart, I'd have probably died from the pain. They sent me home with Prilosec OTC for my stomach.

I have five very black and blue areas on both arms where nurses tried to put IV ports into my arms. Unreal! But, from having a sonogram during a chemical stress test, it showed my heart is very good. -Cathie, in Springfield, MO

anon90491
Post 63

My potassium level was at 2.6 and I was put on a potassium IV for two days after severe food poisoning. I think battery acid in the veins is a great comparison. I never want to experience that ever again.

I now have syrup to take, the thought of which is making me nauseated. If it's like that going in via IV, what is direct consumption going to be like?

I guess I'll find out tomorrow.

anon88353
Post 62

my sister has a six months old baby boy and he is bowlegged. he can't crawl and the doctor said he has calcium and potassium deficiency.

anon87426
Post 61

no.59: There are other causes of cramps too. maybe you want to look at other causes. But please see a doctor!

james03
Post 60

i'm a 20 year old male. I feel a weakening and a little bit of paralysis of arms and legs for almost one year. what should i do?

anon78115
Post 59

I get unbelievably painful leg cramps 10 min after I go to bed. They are in my feet, my calves and thighs. The pain is so so bad. I rub vigorously and put a freezing ice pack on.

The ice works in 10 min. but it is hard to ice three places when you only have two hands to hold on. I eat healthy and work out at the gym. I am 60 but in great shape except for the cramps.

But just walking now causes me to have them afterward. I had to give up aerobic dance as I'm afraid I'll have an attack.

I eat half a banana with yogurt every morning, spinach salads and salmon. I am at a loss as to what to do. Can anyone help me?

anon75901
Post 58

By the way, too much of these minerals is also very dangerous. I have been there too. My advice to all is see your doctor. Don't let them push you aside with generalities. No two people will feel the same with the same blood levels. A blood calcium level of 8.5 to 10.3 is normal, but I sometimes get symptomatic at 8.5.

Finally, too much or too little potassium can be fatal. The human body is a fascinating machine.

- anon68847

You run the risk of overdoing it with potassium pills. The safest way to get your potassium levels up is by eating potassium rich wholefoods. Your body never lets you down when you eat the real thing. You can't OD on wholefoods.

anon70857
Post 57

I am a 39 year old female, 5'9", 145 lbs. I am extremely healthy.

I do cardio for 30 minutes daily, plus I do yoga several times a week, plus weight lifting 2x/week and Pilates 2x/week. I have recently been diagnosed with hypertension and I was started on a diuretic (hydrochlorothiazide).

I have always suffered from leg cramps that occasionally wake me up in the middle of the night, screaming from the pain. Further, I often cramp up in my legs during yoga or Pilates, and I have to stop to walk it off.

Since starting the diuretic, I have been taking a potassium supplement, and the cramps have gone away. No more waking up in the middle of the night or during exercising (which was always more prevalent).

I'm hoping just the addition of the potassium supplement will reduce the need for the diuretic but for now, I'm taking both.

I see my doctor in three weeks, and I am going to ask him about taking me off the diuretic to see how the potassium does at keeping my BP low.

anon70532
Post 56

I recently went to the ER for flu like symptoms and not being able to breathe, and after lab work and urine tests came back they found my potassium to be low at 2.5. I was told that I would need to stay a night and they gave me an IV w/potassium in it, which caused my arm to burn, legs to lock up and the left side of my face to go numb.

I called the nurse and told them to take it out and was then given potassium pills to take instead. My potassium was most likely low due to my blood pressure/water pill medicine and I was discharged the following day with a prescription for potassium pills to take daily and to discontinue the blood pressure medicine.

I have a follow up with my doc this week and I pray that I will get better. I never want to experience a potassium IV again!

anon70187
Post 55

I just recently came out of the hospital with a bout of A-Fib. The culprit this time was that my doctor prescribed a water pill - 25 mg. of hydrochlorothiazide - which I took for 12 days which took my potassium levels to 2.5 and therefore resulted in A-Fib.

I do not have high BP and therefore am concerned why I even listened to my cardiologist on this one. No more water pills for me and I feel great.

P.S. The iv drip of potassium is not fun! I thought I was going to die! It was just horrible!

My new mantra is "a banana a day keeps the doctor away".

anon69654
Post 54

I have begun drinking a coconut water drink. This is not the same as coconut milk. Coconut water is very high in potassium and Vit C., low in sugar and fat. When I drink it I have energy and feel less stress.

I too, get leg pains and have thyroid nodules. I had high blood pressure during my last pregnancy. The doctor has no explanation for these issues. I still haven't felt the same. Wish I had known about potassium levels. Maybe that would have helped.

The coconut water is very expensive so I am looking for something else I can take.

anon68847
Post 53

Your parathyroid glands help to regulate all your electrolytes, so yes, a growth near the parathyroid my be causing deficiencies.

I had my entire thyroid and two parathyroid glands removed. Also, during the surgery, the other two parathyroid glands were touched somehow. Now I have no functioning parathyroid glands.

As a result of this, I must supplement daily with calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, and potassium. Without these minerals, I will get tetany again. Tetany is painful and frightening. A deficiency in either of these minerals will throw your body into cramps, twitching, memory loss, inability to understand spoken language, fatigue, and dizziness.

Licking salt does help, although it is a temporary fix. If your levels get dangerously low, the only remedy is intravenous supplements.

I have suffered from all these symptoms many times over the years since my thyroid was removed. I have learned to recognize when one or more of my electrolytes is out of balance and I take extra supplements to bring my levels back to normal.

By the way, too much of these minerals is also very dangerous. I have been there too. My advice to all is see your doctor. Don't let them push you aside with generalities. No two people will feel the same with the same blood levels. A blood calcium level of 8.5 to 10.3 is normal, but I sometimes get symptomatic at 8.5.

Finally, too much or too little potassium can be fatal. The human body is a fascinating machine.

anon68814
Post 52

Just got through being administered eight bags of KCl and I discovered a great way to relieve most, if not all, of the discomfort you feel around the IV site.

I was able to relieve my pain by vigorously rubbing the area that hurt for about 30 seconds. That seemed to keep the pain at a tolerable limit for about an hour. It sure beats the after effects of having all those pain-killers pumped into you.

anon67577
Post 51

It's interesting to hear all the comments on potassium deficiency. I for two years have had problems with heart palpitations and malignant blood pressure, spent a lot of money on doctors and university hospitals who couldn't find the answer.

All the tests came back normal (heart and blood work), but interestingly enough I recently started having muscle/joint leg pain, when they did more blood work (potassium, calcium and sodium) they came back normal. To make a long story short, I went to a pharmacist and asked for something I can take to help and/or prevent osteoporosis. I am 50 years old perimenopausal, so she recommended I take Caltrate with vitamin d and magnesium. After two days the palpitations decreased significantly and I started taking two 99 mg (as the FDA does not allow them to put more then 99mg in each capsule and the labels will say take one a day as a supplementary substitute) of potassium a day and a banana and a glass of orange juice, my legs after two weeks don't hurt as much and don't have as much twitching either.

I am tempted to add two more tablets at night to see if it speeds the process up. Oh -- and my blood pressure is going down on its own as they took me off all the blood pressure meds, stating that it may be the prescriptions, none of which are diuretics.

I also do physiotherapy twice a week, but I suspect it's the deficiency. After reading a lot of articles I found out that you can have normal blood work, but if it is not getting to the cellular structure then you will suffer all the deficiency ailments, which my doctor agrees with, but won't tell you, so if you are reading this and all your blood work is fine, but you have some of these problems, trial and error is the method. Do it slowly until you can see the benefits then decide if you feel you need more or less.

anon66008
Post 50

took a prescription diuretic and didn't know i needed a potassium supplement also. i was doing dishes and went into a seizure. I got to ride in an ambulance and woke up eight hours later. So, if you are taking a prescription diuretic, get a potassium supplement.

anon65328
Post 49

I have had leg cramps at night for years. A friend who is a bodybuilder told me to take taurine. I tried it and he was right. It works. No idea why.

anon63852
Post 48

I have just gotten out of hospital for this and my heart stopped. it was the scariest thing in the world. i could feel my heart stop and all i could think about was my daughter and my husband. being so sick at 20 is so terrible and i wish this upon no one in the world.

anon62842
Post 47

yes, too much potassium is dangerous. That is why I don't take a lot.

too low is dangerous too.

I am 19, and have had this since I was 9. I'm now 20. I have kidney problems and leg cramps, they hurt, to the point where I cry. I am sorry for anyone who has this, and if you think you have it, you need to find out, because it is potentially deadly.

anon58156
Post 46

I have had two heart attacks and my potassium stays low due to the medications I am on. The doctors prescribed 3 meq potassium tablets daily.

I have found that when I only two, which is normally the case, that I have chest pains. These pains are not bad just annoying. I can take a potassium pill and the pain is gone within minutes. So I am now taking the three a day as prescribed and I feel much better, no pains.

anon54127
Post 45

I was just hospitalized for potassium deficiency. Yes the iv hurts like nothing you have ever felt before. Iimagine boiling concrete being shoved through your veins, and that about sums it up.

Ask your doctor for pain medication to be administered prior to the potassium. My doctor tried morphine first and when that did not help, switched me to dilaudid.

For every dose of dilaudid, I was able to handle two bags of potassium. I had six bags that day.

anon52037
Post 44

I know this may sound crazy but it works. If you're having leg cramps keep a salt shaker handy. Sprinkle a little salt into the palm of your hand and lick (yes lick) it out of your hand and your cramps will stop almost immediately. It's always worked for me.

anon49161
Post 43

I heard that Celiac disease can cause potassium deficiency. Talk to your doctor and research celiac disease.

anon48473
Post 42

I am an otherwise healthy 32 year old female who went through too much stress in a four year period (e.g., law school, had two beautiful daughters with one in NICU, and worked full time). Needless to say, I did not spend enough time drinking water, eating well, exercising, or de-stressing. I am technically underweight at 5'8" and 130ish pounds. About 13 months ago I started having really bad chest pains and have had every test known to man show that nothing was clinically wrong with me. I have tried a lot of things but recently identified something that really, finally worked. I have suffered for 13 months and wanted to share what I have learned so that hopefully I can brighten someone else's path to health. First, I thought my PH was off and it may have been because Barlean's green drink really started me down the right bath. I also felt a little better when I started taking heartburn medicine (prilosec over the counter). The one little goodie that has made me feel 1000 percent myself again is so simple: Ecological Formulas Tri-Salts which is just calcium, magnesium and potassium. Research the right amount for yourself but I add 1/4 teaspoon to 8 oz of water. Tastes great and mixes super easy. I felt 90 percent better seven days later and even lifted weights today with no labored breathing. I hope this helps someone.

anon46964
Post 41

to sandman752: I just experienced an episode similar to yours. My arms went numb, then my legs and face! My pulse was 170, and I couldn't breathe. The paramedic discovered that my blood sugar was low (never has been)and gave IV push of glucose. In the ER, the doctor suggested a possible tumor. The next day, more blood work discovered very low potassium. I take a prescription diuretic, which depletes potassium, and was supposed to be eating a banana a day. In the hosp., I was receiving small amount of potassium in IV drip, but the doctor decided to give an IV bolus in addition. After that came down the tube, my hand was in excruciating pain. Wow! Also, the numbness returned to both arms *and* my face. My leg muscles locked down. My left arm (*not* the IV arm) turned rigid and unmovable. The nurse commented she could not open my fingers. My whole body jerked and shook for 20 minutes. Chalk it up to poor administration of potassium, though they did not admit to it. Scary.

anon46230
Post 40

About three months ago I was diagnosed with low potassium and sent to a kidney specialist who diagnosed me with Gitelman's Syndrome. I have struggled since then with low potassium and have been unsuccessful in keeping it above a 2.1. Any suggestions on what to do next? My doctors are stumped and don't know what else to do. I even had a port put in my chest so they could give me four-hour potassium treatments every day on top of taking liquid potassium. The port got infected and sent me into seizures. My temp went to 104.7 and actually burned my face and mouth and my nose. I am at my wit's end and don't know what else to do. It is a daily battle to to function each day.

anon46085
Post 39

I too would like to know if drinking too much alcohol (on a daily basis) can lower the potassium levels?

anon45564
Post 38

Leg cramps woke me out of a sound sleep. My heart was racing. I have no energy and unusual skin eruptions that blister and hurt. A lady at work told me it sounds like potassium deficiency. I went home drank a lot of water, ate dried fruit and slept pain free. I sweat profusely while i work and walk which explains the depletion of minerals necessary for proper cell function.

anon45409
Post 37

Just having spent the night in ICU getting potassium due to my level being at 1.9. I will say that it burns. Hot moist towels helped to ease the pain, but they can mix the potassium to where it is not as harsh. It just takes longer for the IV to run through and I am not sure why they don't run all the potassium at the lower levels, but they kept trying to increase the dose and I just could not adjust. I do feel better and it is interesting how much better the higher K level makes one feel. They let me come home after my level got to 4.1 - the liquid K mixed in with OJ actually tasted good to me which shocked them all but I think I was so low that it was God's way of allowing me to get the much needed potassium. The hospital staff was very understanding over the pain that the IV was causing and tried to make me as comfortable as they could.

anon44707
Post 36

I am so curious and hopeful. My husband has suffered what looks like a combination of a stroke and a seizure for years. He becomes vacant in his affect, his speech slurs, his arms tremor upon movement and he cannot walk. He often has diarrhea, does not remember things, has kidney stones, high blood pressure, does not sleep well and was recently diagnosed with severe sleep apnea. He has restless legs. I read some of the symptoms of low potassium. Has anyone out there experienced what he is experiencing? I so want an answer to his health problems.

anon42027
Post 35

i'd stay away from the dried fruits for the potassium-lots of compacted sugar, and they spike your insulin right on up! just about everything we eat has sugar in it, even catsup! We're always spiking our insulin, and after time, we develop insulin resistance. we're a nation of pre-diabetics. watch the epidemic come forth.

anon42025
Post 34

Yes, i will add to my last post; calcium definitely leaches out potassium! i'm a pop-a-holic from way back! Ceasing pops is another reason i'm not cramping, or having restless legs any more. If you're drinking pops or fruit drinks, water just doesn't taste good anymore. You have to give it all up, to be able to like to drink enough water to hydrate yourself. We're a nation of dehydrated people. When you're dehydrated, your body loses its sense of thirst. Your only symptom is a dry mouth in the morning. Also, if i allow pops back into my life, then, again, water doesn't taste good anymore, and i get back pain/strain. i wake up with an aching lower back. i unload the disks in my back by simply lying down on my stomach, propping myself up with my elbows, hands out, palms down, for just a few minutes, and then my back's ok, and i get back to hydrating myself again. if you have lower back pain, it's an amazing healing process. i found i was walking the wrong way all my life, which caused my back pain. But if i'm on my feet a lot, especially bending over cooking a lot, sometimes i'll have to unload my discs several times a day. it's quite an amazing process!

anon41848
Post 33

lots of good info here. i found through jillian michaels book (the biggest loser coach) that we need 4.7g potassium. i was floored finding you'd need to eat like 4 cups of raisins, or 11 bananas, or 6 cups of spinach! Then, i discovered food manufacturers aren't required to list potassium on their labels, although it is becoming a selling point. This article showed me it is in beef, chicken, salmon, and a lot of fruits and veges. Since i started eating healthier, i haven't had a cramp, or restless legs. i was worried, but now i am not.

anon40750
Post 32

There have been new studies that show that large amounts of caffeine can also lead to potassium deficiency. So far there isn't too much data on long term use of caffeine at lower amounts, but I think there is a connection as well. I recently quit drinking cola because I was having muscle fatigue, weakness, and heart palpitations. Just an idea for those who are deficient and don't know why.

anon37767
Post 31

Why are you not answering these questions and posting them in the the question box? eg.anon1193 so is too much potassium not good??? thanks sincerely dave...

Moderator's reply: Thank you for visiting wiseGEEK and participating in our discussions! Unfortunately, we are not equipped to respond to specific questions, which is why we created this discussion section on each article page. In this section, a reader may discuss article topics with other readers. Whether and when your questions will be answered, however, depends on fellow readers and posters.

anon37307
Post 30

After reading this, I'm a little confused. I recently was sent to the hospital after having convulsions, and the doctors never did find any cause. Here's the thing: From my bloodwork, I was told the only thing abnormal with me was that my white blood cell count was a little high, and my potassium levels were low. Now, I drink milk nearly every day, which supposedly is rich in potassium. I also take a daily multivitamin, which contains magnesium. What the heck could be causing a deficiency if I eat potassium rich foods every single day?

anon36490
Post 29

Can drinking too much alcohol (on a daily basis) lower the potassium levels?

anon36292
Post 28

my neck and arms hurt a lot. i am on potassium but i still feel tired and arms ache, i am on blood pressure meds and water pill.

anon35139
Post 27

I'm an 18 year old boy, and have potassium deficiency, i always seem to feel tired and weak, like i've got a virus, could this be due to the lack of poatssium in my system? thanks

anon34381
Post 26

I am a 16 year old girl and was diagnosed with potassium deficiency, I get severe random leg cramps. They last 15 to 30 minutes and occasionally I lose complete feeling in them. Doctor said to eat potassium rich foods, which generally works... it is both scary and painful otherwise. People tend to laugh it off but don't doubt the seriousness of this condition - I was horseback riding and my left calf seized, causing me to nearly get killed.

anon34272
Post 25

It seems really hard to find supplements/vitamins/foods with enough Potassium in them. Bananas and yogurt, but even Potassium vitamins don't have much.

anon34169
Post 24

I'm a 29 year old male and last Sunday woke to no feelings in my leg. Was rushed to the hospital to an IV of Potassium - this was a a very very painful 2 hours.

Since then, after many blood tests, later my doctors are clueless on why it went dangerously low?!?

I am going back again to the hospital next week for further tests and will update you all then.

Very scared at the moment but I have feelings back in my legs again ( even though they feel really weak!).

Dara

anon30586
Post 23

Okay folks - let's get the big question answered - can a lack of potassium kill you and the answer is *yes*.

How, you wonder?

Potassium and magnesium are crucial for cellular conductivity. Become deficient in potassium and most likely your magnesium is off too. Doctors still can't quite grasp the connection between the two minerals but one without the other leads to cellular death. The cells cannot properly function and start losing their cohesiveness. Before your body let's cell death occur it will pillage stores for the missing elements. Have you noticed your muscles getting weaker? That's your body cannibalizing itself and the cells losing their ability to transfer oxygen in and out of themselves.

I am having the symptoms, can it get worse from here?

Yes, yes it can. Your heart is a muscle, the lack of key elements in your blood inhibits normal function. If your heart is becoming stiff and is unable to pump blood the way it should you can die from congestive heart failure or cariogenic shock.

By the way for those who are curious the big three that are most often prescribed together is Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium.

You have a gastric shortening of the bowels, intestines, and/or stomach and you seem to be low on your potassium - what you can do:

This is for all you folks with an olio or gastric bypass. Your biggest danger is diarrhea. As your system flushes out you lose magnesium and as stated before cells need magnesium and potassium. The more dumping you do from your system the faster your become depleted. Take special care during these time to up your magnesium and potassium intakes.

If you have a shortened GI track you will become deficient far sooner then "normal" people. Avoid high fiber at these times, go to a Brat diet - tons of fluids (hydration), soft easily digested foods like bananas, arrow root cookies, saltines, and clear broth. There are diarrhea cures in your pharmacy that can help you to slow down. If you are getting chest pains, muscle cramping, numbness, dizzy spells and dry mouth please head to the doctor's or emergency department - your body is telling you that your are in trouble.

The longer you wait to get help the longer and harder it is to rebuild your body. There are long term consequences for depletion: muscle loss, decreased hearing and visual function, decreased mental recall.

For pregnant women - do not muck about. There are several forms of calcium on the market today: liquids, capsules, tablets that dissolve in water, and chewable. Remember that you aren't the only person being deprived of nutrients your unborn child can suffer long term effects of deficiencies. Go to your local pharmacy or health food shop and look for alternative supplements. Lastly look to change your diet and eat increased amount of foods that contain what you are lacking.

I hope that some of the above was helpful. I am a full time caregiver to my mother who is chronically short on potassium, magnesium and calcium. She has an ilio bypass.

anon29583
Post 22

My mother has not been feeling well. She takes 22mg of Potassium which she gets as a prescription. I have potassium which is 99mg. She was told one week by her doctor's office that her potassium was low and she asked if she should increase her dose and was told to eat a banana and drink oj which she already does.

Then a week later was told that the potassium was normal. Her symptoms are exactly as described, she also takes a diuretic and blood pressure medicine. Can you advise?

thank you, hockeymom51

anon29416
Post 21

An error above: Club Soda does not contain Quinine. *Tonic* water contains quinine. Club Soda however does often contain potassium sulfate or potassium bicarbonate so it would be good to drink to replete K.

philipphlop
Post 19

yes too much potassium is bad for you which is called "hyperkalemia" and a deficiency is called "hypokalemia" and both in extreme circumstances are fatal. i see many are suffering a form of deficiency and the best way to combat this is by supplementing the diet with food *not tablets*! the best way to make sure that you acquire the right amounts would be to have and avocado for breakfast around 100g in weight and 250ml of fresh orange juice, also a banana for a 10:00 snack, following this you should more than adequately supplement your daily potassium requirements. those of you that are suffering form hypokalemia consult this with your doctor before to establish whether you are hypo or hyperkaliemic as both symptoms can be very similar. Also have on going blood test to see that this small diet change is doing the trick, just in case there is something else that may be the problem. however in the deficiency cases 90% of the time this does work, and also having a positive outlook into your health will help too.

-i hope this is of help to you-phil

anon24823
Post 18

Seeing several of the questions, I thought perhaps I might be able to give some answers. I'm not in the medical field, but rather a patient who's seen many drs and has learned a great deal through my own experiences. (I've dealt only with the low potassium side).

1. q: why does potassium help leg cramps?

a: The body regulates on a balance of potassium of calcium & potassium. If the calcium is too high, lactic acid will build up in the legs causing cramps & pain. try eating more potassium rich foods, and check with your dr.

For twitchy legs, try a splash of club soda. The quinine in the club soda helps calm the muscles and works pretty fast. I'd recommend mixing it with some juice though, unless you like straight club soda. Try a small amount at first, you can always try more later. The key is the quinine.

2. q: is 2.9 a dangerous level for potassium?

a: when I was recently in the hospital, my potassium was 2.1 and I was told that I was at serious risk for future complications. They said they would release me when my potassium was raised to 3.4. (I think they said normal levels are 3.4 to 4.7, but definitely check with your doctor as those levels may only be specific to my body type).

3. q. can high/low potassium numbers be fatal?

a. yes, if the imbalance is great enough it can wreak havoc on your body and you risk the great possibility of multiple organ failure, especially the heart, thereby leading to death. Your Dr can draw blood to check on your potassium levels.

When I was admitted to the hospital, I was having a terrible time breathing normally & by the time I got to the hospital, i was starting to have a paralytic episode. I was given a potassium IV as well as started on antibiotics (due to fever). Yes, the potassium IV hurt!!! They are most likened to putting battery acid in your veins. I had my IV in my hand and the pain radiated up to my elbow. It's the worst pain I've ever felt, but 2 ice packs wrapped around my arm helped make it bearable - so did the fact of knowing it would be over in 2 hours. After the IV was finished, the pain went away within a short while.

Now I have a question - I have a small mass near my parathyroid, and sometimes my potassium levels come back just fine, others not. The Dr's do not know why though - could this mass be contributing to the imbalance?

nelson21s
Post 17

I'm under recovery from the CO poisoning. After the incident my lower body is very weak especially my right leg. Someone told me to take some Potassium and dehydration salt. Will it help? I need a fast recovery but not immediate because i need to take a flight soon?

mom2three09
Post 16

I am 2 1/2 months pregnant with my 3rd child. I was in the ER about 2 weeks ago with chest pain, vomiting and weakness. I was told my potassium was very very low and I was at risk of Heart and kidney failure. They tried to give me potassium through IV but my veins hurt so much that I couldn't handle it, I was given oral potassium to take 3 times a day for 3 days. I can't stomach them so I have not taken them. In the past couple days I have increased pain in my heart, kidneys, liver and belly. I am also very tired and horribly weak.... I have an appointment in 2 days to see what can be done, but does anyone know if Potassium Deficiency can ultimately kill you???

michelin
Post 15

my mother has been to the ER twice in the last month for chest pains and been told both times that it was a potassium deficiency. She is 66 yrs. old. Is this normal for this age? She has asthma real bad and takes several meds. on a daily basis for this. She has been under a dr.'s care for as long as I can remember for different health problems. She is raising a great grandchild who is 4 and has 2 grandchildren who live in the home along with a 1 yr. old that one of the grandkids brought back with them. I am concerned that she is headed for a heart attack. I have investigated enough to know that if a woman is experiencing a heart attack that the symptoms can be very different than a man.

sandman752
Post 14

One month following surgery for colon cancer, during which 13 inches of my colon and 9 inches of my small intestine were removed, I suffered a case of hypokalemia, or potassium deficiency. It was caused by excessive diarrhea, which I was told I would have, but the doctors never warned me that hypokalemia could be a result. Actually, I thought I was either experiencing symptoms of either an impending stroke or a heart attack. It developed over a matter of days. First, my arms began "going to sleep" when in an elevated position. Later, my legs began going numb when I'd cross them. I didn't think much of it at first, but when my face and scalp went numb, I reported to the nearest emergency room. The ER doc mentioned that the numbness might be caused by a tumor in my brain, which made sense since I had just been cured of one tumor. For two hours after the CT scan of my head, I sat in the ER waiting for the doc to come in and give me the bad news. You can imagine my relief when he told me that the blood work had come back showing that the problem was a low potassium level. For the past two days, I've taken potassium supplements, a medication to slow the diarrhea, and a helluva lot of bananas. I don't mean to make light of the condition. Hypokalemia can have very serious consequences. If you're having any of these symptoms, please see a doctor immediately. Hope yours is better than mine (the jerk).

greentea131
Post 13

My mom's lower "eyelid" twitches randomly. Could this be an affect of potassium deficiency?

anon13216
Post 12

i am a 28 year old male and i have potassium deficiency. when my potassium drops too low i get muscle paralysis. what i want to know is, is it fatal to take to much potassium?

Moderator's reply: check out our article,what are the effects of elevated potassium levels?, for more information on too much potassium.

tanko12
Post 11

i am a COPD patient and have been on steroids for 8 years. whatever symptoms i get now are attributed to steroid use. Are the following caused by long term steroids use ? and can i do or take anything to help the situation

1 half cramps on the hand near the fingers

2 restlessness on the lower feet when i lie down

3 i am 58 yrs old but my skin has started to look aged alarmingly, and bruises at the slightest contact.

anon9442
Post 10

Hi I am an herbalist and Certified Natural Health Professional, and have a client that has several night cramps in her legs after she has an alcoholic drink, we have tried Magnesium, only a little helpful, she can't take Calcium, and Potassium seems to be the one that helps the most. I don't understand why the Potassium would be the most helpful. And how much should she take.

Renee

anon4434
Post 9

To Anonymous: Yes, Leg cramps can be caused by potassium deficiency. But it can happen because of other minerals deficiency too. So it's quite hard to tell.

aszatko
Post 8

can having a potassium deficiency be fatal?

anon3809
Post 7

Is a potassium level of 2.9 dangerous?

anon2396
Post 6

I have blood vessels break in my fingers approx every 6 - 8 weeks. Could this be a result of not enough potassium? I had my blood checked recently and my potassium & protein levels were low.

Dayton
Post 5

I did a bit of research, and sources on the web cite anything between 4700 milligrams and 2500 milligrams per day. As the article says, there's no specified amount though.

Kandi320
Post 4

What should be the daily intake of potassium?

anon2167
Post 2

I get a tremendous amount of leg cramps, particularly while sleeping. Can this be caused by a deficiency in potassium?

anon1193
Post 1

is too much potassium harmful?

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