Potassium, a mineral, is an important staple in the human diet. The lack of potassium can lead to serious health problems. There are three types of symptoms associated with the lack of potassium, each occurring within different stages of the deficiency.
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Potassium is a mineral that helps maintain the balance of water and acid in the blood system and tissue cells. It also helps build muscles and the cell and nerve systems to send electrical signals to one another. A lack or deficiency of potassium inhibits or weakens the body's ability to perform these tasks. Potassium deficiency is called hypokalemia.
The first and earliest symptoms of low potassium can include dry skin, muscle weakness or aches or cramps, slow reflexes and bone loss. Other symptoms are fatigue, kidney stones and high blood pressure.
If the deficiency is allowed to go untreated, a person suffering from low potassium can experience intermediate symptoms. They include an increased risk in heart problems, such as heart palpitations or irregular heartbeats. The risks of a stroke may also be increased.
Other symptoms associated with potassium deficiency are rare. They can include serious cases of arrhythmias and paralysis. Someone suffering from the more acute cases of potassium deficiency will need immediate medical treatment.
Potassium comes from various foods, but a low-potassium diet will not necessarily lead to signs or symptoms of low potassium. Rather, the more common causes for potassium deficiency are excessive diarrhoea or vomiting, hyperthyroidism, or medications, such a diuretics, cortisones, and high blood pressure drugs, which decrease the amount of potassium in the body. Bulimics are more likely to suffer from low potassium, due to forced vomiting.
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