Hypokalemia for Everyone. #5. Signs and Symptoms of Hypokalemia


Any information or statement present in this post does not replace your health care provider’s advice or treatment. This blog does not provide medical advice, prescribe medications or therapies, or diagnose conditions, it only expresses an opinion. If you have a health-related question or condition, confer with your healthcare provider.
This post appeared here, as part of a series. The author is the same. The series was published as an ebook, which you can find in Amazon Kindle format and Apple Books Format.

 

The signs and symptoms of hypokalemia vary from being totally subclinical to death from a serious arrhythmia. The great majority of the signs and symptoms of hypokalemia are neuromuscular in nature. The reason for this was explained in the previous chapter. The lower the potassium concentration in plasma, the more apparent the signs and symptoms are.

When the potassium level is between 3.0 and 3.4 mEq/L, the signs and symptoms are usually minimal. They may only be uncovered by electrocardiographic (ECG) monitoring. Between 2.5 and 2.9 mEq/L the patient usually has some degree of muscle weakness. In addition, ECG monitors show some changes, such as, an increase in typical findings such as ST segment depression and T wave inversions(1). These are not felt by the patient. When the potassium concentration goes between 2.0-2.4 mEq/L, the patient is at serious risk of a cardiac arrhythmia and usually is experiencing significant muscle weakness. Values lower than 2.0 mEq/L are very dangerous. The ECG may show a U wave, sign that the conduction of electrical impulses in the heart is significantly affected and that can precede a life threatening arrhythmia.

Notes

  1. Joel Lewis, “ECG Diagnosis: Hypokalemia,” The Permanente Journal 16, no. 4 (2012): 57, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3383164/pdf/i1552-5775-16-2-57.pdf.

 

Read the other sections of this series:

Introduction
What Causes Hypokalemia? A
What Causes Hypokalemia? B
What Causes Hypokalemia? C
How Common is Hypokalemia?
What Happens When Someone Has Hypokalemia?

 

 

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