The normal range of potassium level in the blood ranges between 3.5 and 5.3 mEq/L. Fall in the potassium concentration in the blood is referred to as hypokalemia. Potassium is a crucial electrolyte in the body and plays an important role in the maintenance of the nervous functions and the functions of the heart.
Drop in the level of potassium in the blood can be associated with symptoms like muscular weakness, cramps and fatigue. Though the symptoms may not be experienced unless the levels of potassium are significantly lowered, medical intervention may be necessary since prolonged drop in potassium levels in the blood can result in severe cardiac dysfunction.
What Are The Dangers Of Low Potassium?
The mechanism by which the body regulates the level of potassium in the body is by moving potassium inside and outside the cells. Destruction and damage of the cells results in moving of the potassium electrolyte into the cell wall, which results in low potassium levels in the blood. The dangers associated with low levels of potassium are,
- Low potassium level in the blood is associated with muscle spasms. Potassium plays a crucial role in regulating the contraction of the smooth muscle cells and hence low levels of potassium are often associated with muscle twitching and spasm.
- Low levels of potassium are also associated with a condition referred to as restless leg syndrome. The condition is characterized by suddenly waking up at night. The condition tends to affect children and pregnant females. Increasing the intake of potassium supplements can help in the effective management of sleep interruptions especially in the middle of the night.
- Another danger associated with low levels of potassium includes elevated levels of anxiety and irritability. Low levels of potassium also increase the risk of mild to moderate depression. There are several studies that have indicated that mild depression is managed effectively by increasing the intake of foods rich in potassium.
- Low potassium levels are associated with increased risk of developing osteoporosis. Potassium plays a crucial role in limiting bone reabsorption and thereby reduces bone loss. The individual with low level of potassium are often in danger of fractures which are associated with delayed healing process.
Side Effects Of Low Potassium Levels In The Body
Normally low potassium levels are not associated with any major side effects and side effects are experienced only when the levels of potassium drop significantly below normal values. Some of the common side effects associated with low potassium levels include,
- Persistent nausea associated with frequent vomiting is one of the hallmark adverse effects associated with low level of potassium. This in turn may result in severe dehydration which in turn can be associated with irritability, generalized weakness and breathlessness.
- Alternation of diarrhea with constipation is another common side effect associated with low potassium levels.
- A very important side effect of low potassium level includes headache and insomnia.
- It should be noted that if no intervention is made in the management of low potassium levels, it can subsequently result in adverse effect on the heart.
- Another common side effect associated with low potassium levels include sudden fall in the blood pressure levels and elevated levels of cholesterol.
- In addition, another side effect associated with prolonged low levels of potassium in the blood is kidney damage which is often associated with scarring of renal tissue.