Potassium Deficiency

Potassium deficiency is a health condition in which the potassium level in the serum or whole blood is below the normal range. A potassium value of less than 3.6 mmol/l in the serum and less than 3.4 mmol/l in the whole blood is referred to as a potassium deficiency. As a rule, potassium deficiency is caused by an increased loss of potassium from the body, for example due to vomiting, diarrhea or the intake of diuretics (diuretic medication).

Symptoms of potassium deficiency

The symptoms of a potassium deficiency can vary greatly. The symptoms include:

People with chronic gastrointestinal diseases, athletes, senior citizens and pregnant or breastfeeding women should pay attention to their potassium levels and take the symptoms above seriously.

Causes of potassium deficiency

A potassium deficiency is usually caused by an increased loss of potassium.
For example, prolonged diarrhea and vomiting, but also excessive sweating can cause a potassium deficiency. High consumption of coffee can also contribute to a loss of potassium. The caffeine it contains has diuretic properties and can increase potassium excretion.

Caution is advised when taking certain medications, such as diuretics and laxatives. These medicines cause the body to excrete too much potassium and the potassium levels become imbalanced.

Diagnosis of potassium deficiency

A potassium deficiency can be diagnosed by means of a blood test, whereby both serum and whole blood can be used. Whole blood analysis differs from serum analysis in that the whole blood (blood cells and plasma), including the potassium molecules bound inside the red blood cells, is examined.

Minerals such as potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium or selenium are mainly present in the blood cells, which is why whole blood analysis should always be preferred for detecting a mineral deficiency.

Dr. med. Karsten Ostermann M.A.

A potassium deficiency can be remedied by eating potassium-rich foods or taking dietary supplements. Prior individual diagnosis by an experienced doctor is recommended.

Dr. Karsten Ostermann

Further information

The information listed contains relevant topics and serves to improve understanding.