Potassium is a mineral that is needed to help the heart, kidneys, and other organs function. Hypokalemia is lower than normal levels of potassium in your blood.
All cells within the body need potassium. It works to regulate water and mineral balance throughout the body. Low levels can cause muscle and nerve problems throughout the body. It can also cause an
irregular heart rate.
Potassium enters the body through food and digestion. It passes out of the blood through the kidneys. Hypokalemia occurs when there is not enough potassium being absorbed into the body, too much potassium is removed by the kidneys, or potassium moves from the blood into the cells.
Factors that may increase potassium excretion through the kidneys:
Certain medications such as diuretics or beta-2-adrenergic agonists
Kidney disease or
—too much potassium excreted
Significant elevation of glucose from poorly controlled diabetes
Factors that may shift potassium into cells:
Treatment of elevated glucose and
from poorly controlled diabetes
Hypokalaemia. Patient website. Available at: https://patient.info/doctor/hypokalaemia. Updated January 23, 2017. Accessed March 26, 2018.
Hypokalemia. NORD—National Organization for Rare Disorders website. Available at: https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/hypokalemia. Accessed March 26, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 2/12/2014
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at email@example.com. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.