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Hypokalemia (say "hy-po-kuh-LEE-mee-uh") is a low level of potassium. The heart, muscles, kidneys, and nervous system all need potassium to work well.
This problem has many different causes. Kidney problems, diet, and medicines like diuretics and laxatives can cause it. So can vomiting or diarrhea. In some cases, cancer is the cause. Your doctor may do tests to find the cause of your low potassium levels.
You may need medicines to bring your potassium levels back to normal. You may also need regular blood tests to check your potassium.
If you have very low potassium, you may need intravenous (IV) medicines. You also may need tests to check the electrical activity of your heart. Heart problems caused by low potassium levels can be very serious.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
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Current as of: March 1, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.
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