What Are the Causes of a Low Potassium Level?

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Potassium is a mineral that your body needs for the contraction of muscles, proper beating of your heart and regulation of blood pressure. Your kidneys control the level by removing excess potassium through urine. There are a number of reasons for low potassium, which is called hypokalemia.

Symptoms include fatigue, weakness, muscle spasms and cramps, constipation and irregular heartbeat. An extremely low potassium level is a serious condition, requiring potassium by intravenous injection, which must be done while monitoring your heart.

Kidney Disorders

If your kidney function is impaired, it can cause low potassium. Problems include chronic or acute kidney failure, a deficiency in magnesium or leukaemia.

Severe Vomiting and Diarrhea

You can lose potassium through your stomach or bowels if you have an illness that is causing severe vomiting and diarrhoea. In addition, using laxatives too often can result in low potassium.


Some medications can result in potassium loss, such as diuretics, which remove excess water from your body. Asthma and emphysema medicines, or aminoglycosides, which are a class of antibiotics, can also cause low potassium.

Metabolic States

When potassium is shifted across your cells, the concentration of potassium in your blood is lower. This can be caused by insulin use, or it can result from alkalosis, which is a pH level that is too alkaline.

Eating Disorders

Not eating properly can cause low potassium. Serious disorders such as anorexia or bulimia can have this effect on your potassium levels.


If you experience symptoms of low potassium, you should consult your doctor as soon as possible, because low potassium levels could lead to a life-threatening situation.