Potassium Imbalance - Causes and Effects of Potassium Imbalance


Potassium imbalance is above or below normal levels of potassium in the blood, which eventually affects all body fluids and body cells.

Is potassium as important as sodium even though there is no dietary guideline for potassium as there is for sodium? Many nutritionists would argue that it is. In the body, potassium works hand in glove with sodium in several ways including fluid and acid-base balances and in controlling nerves and muscles. The difference is that there is no major chronic disease such as hypertension that is associated with too much potassium as there is with sodium and salt.

DRIS analysis provides the means for diagnosing nutrient imbalance and a potential basis for prescribing corrective amendments in sweetgum plantations.

What are the symptoms of potassium imbalance?

If your potassium levels are too high, you may experience:
  • Weakness and paralysis;
  • Dangerously rapid, irregular heartbeat or slow heartbeat (sometimes);
  • Nausea and diarrhoea.

Prevention of Potassium Imbalance

If you have a disorder or take drugs that affect potassium levels (see Causes & Risk Factors), learn as much as you can about your condition, your drugs and how you can prevent a potassium imbalance.

If you take digitalis and diuretics, have frequent blood studies to monitor potassium levels. For prolonged vomiting or diarrhea, reduce athletic activities and seek medical care.

The amount of potassium normally found in the serum is less than 2% of the total body amount. Thus, the serum potassium level is not the ideal indicator of potassium activity in the body. Potassium homeostasis or imbalance is a function of changes in input, changes in output, and shifts of potassium between the serum and the intracellular fluid.

Most significant hyperkalemia is associated with renal impairment, either glomerular or tubular; hypokalemia in many instances is causally related to increased renal potassium losses. Such losses can be sequentially measured and the information used to prevent potassium depletion.

The key to understanding and treating potassium imbalance is to know which patients are at risk, what the physiologic consequences of hypokalemia and hyperkalemia are, and how to use urinary potassium measurements and the ECG for prevention rather than relying on the serum potassium level only.


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