How can you treat hyperkalemia and tachycardia

All NetDoktor content is checked by medical journalists.

At a Potassium deficiency (Hypokalaemia) there is not enough potassium in the blood serum. This can be the cause or consequence of an illness. Various medications such as diuretics can also lower the potassium level. The greater the deficit, the more dangerous the potassium deficiency is. Find out here how it happens and what symptoms a potassium deficiency causes.

What is a potassium deficiency?

Doctors speak of a potassium deficiency (hypokalaemia) when the level of this important mineral in the blood serum falls below the normal range (below 3.8 mmol / l in adults). In contrast, if the serum potassium is greater than 5.2 mmol / l (adults), there is a potassium excess (hyperkalaemia). The regulation of potassium excretion is regulated by the hormone aldosterone, which causes potassium to be released into the urine.

When does a potassium deficiency occur?

The causes of potassium deficiency are very diverse, as it plays a decisive role in the functionality of all cells and thus occurs everywhere.

Loss of potassium from the kidney

If the body releases more aldosterone or cortisol than needed, more potassium is excreted in the urine with the help of the kidneys. One speaks of hyperaldosteronism (Conn syndrome) or hypercortisolism.

Certain drugs can have a similar effect on the excretion of potassium by the kidneys. These include water tablets (diuretics), glucocorticoids, and antibiotics. In addition, kidney weakness can also lead to a loss of potassium.

Loss of potassium from the gastrointestinal tract

Many minerals are lost through frequent vomiting or diarrhea. This also applies to the vital potassium. Excessive use of laxatives also causes potassium deficiency.

Decreased potassium intake

Although a wide variety of foods contain potassium, malnutrition can lead to a potassium deficiency.

Redistribution of potassium

Potassium is found both inside cells and in the fluid outside the cells. If the pH value of the body rises sharply (alkalosis), the body reacts with an exchange of ions (charged particles) and smuggles more potassium into the cells. The result is a potassium deficiency in the serum.

The same phenomenon occurs with insulin therapy. The insulin stimulates the exchange of intracellular sodium for potassium and reduces the amount of extracellular potassium.

What are the symptoms of potassium deficiency?

Since potassium is significantly involved in cell excitation and signal transmission, a potassium deficiency leads to cardiac arrhythmias, muscle weakness (paresis) and decreased reflexes, for example. Constipation and increased urine output (polyuria) can also develop. Those affected also often complain of fatigue. Potassium deficiency symptoms should always be taken seriously.

What are the consequences of a potassium deficiency?

The most dangerous effects are a lack of potassium on the heart. On the one hand, the so-called sinus node then more often gives the heart the command to contract (contraction) through an overreaction of various channels: The heart beats too fast (tachycardia).

On the other hand, if there is a potassium deficiency, the heart cells can recover more slowly from a contraction. Since the recovery time differs from cell to cell, they get out of step, which ultimately leads to dangerous cardiac arrhythmias.

Various signs in the ECG, such as extrasystoles or a flattening of the T-wave, indicate a potassium deficiency.

How can you compensate for a potassium deficiency?

Acute hypokalemia is an emergency because of its possible consequences. The patient must be given intravenous potassium chloride immediately and closely monitored. If drugs are responsible for the potassium deficiency, they will be discontinued as soon as possible.

If you have a chronic deficit, you can use potassium supplements Potassium deficiency remedy. Much simpler and more sustainable is a diet rich in potassium with vegetables and pulses, potato products, fruit juices and nuts.

Author & source information