Hypokalemia is a condition where potassium levels in the blood are lower than they should be. As potassium is often overlooked as an essential nutrient, this may not seem like an issue to be particularly concerned about. It should be, however, as potassium plays a role in many vital body functions.
According to WebMD, these include helping “muscles to move, cells to get the nutrients they need, and nerves to send their signals.” Additionally, the source says that potassium is of particular importance for the cells in your heart, as well as “keeping your blood pressure from getting too high.” Due to potassium’s importance, it’s helpful to understand what symptoms to expect if you’re low on the nutrient, and also what might be causing this deficiency to happen. Read on the learn about the symptoms and causes of hypokalemia…
1. Muscle Weakness and Cramps
As mentioned in the introduction, potassium is necessary for the proper functioning of the body’s muscles. So if you’re low on the nutrient, it stands to reason that you will likely experience some problems. Muscle weakness may be among the first signs, which the San Francisco Chronicle says can “cause a person difficulty when walking or holding objects.”
In addition, the muscles may twitch or cramp. These spasms, particularly when they occur in the leg, are often referred to as charley horses. If potassium levels continue to drop, the source warns that muscle paralysis can occur, and “If the paralysis involves the diaphragm, the muscle responsible for breathing, respiratory failure will occur.”