What is potassium?
Potassium is a mineral and is found in all our body fluids in the body, such as in the blood and lymph fluid. Potassium is very important for the body's cells and is especially important for the cells found in the muscles. Of the total amount of potassium, approximately 2 percent is found outside the cells in body fluids. When you measure the potassium level, it is the liquid that is around the blood cells.
Why is potassium analyzed?
Potassium can be analyzed for several reasons, partly to follow up treatment in acute illnesses, in case of suspicion of high blood pressure or kidney disease. You can also measure the level of potassium in the blood during treatment with certain drugs, especially drugs for heart disease or high blood pressure, as some drugs can have a lowering effect on the potassium level in the blood and others can raise the level.
Potassium in diet
We get potassium through our diet, potassium is mainly found in fruit, vegetables, meat and fish. In case of elevated values, it is sometimes recommended that corrections be made in the diet to reduce the intake of potassium. Examples of other foods that contain a lot of potassium are nuts, chocolate, citrus fruits and bananas. You can also be treated with drugs that lower the potassium level.
What can a low value of potassium mean?
Low levels of potassium in the blood are called hypokalemia. Potassium deficiency is rarely something you notice, but can make you feel more tired and have less energy. If potassium is too low, problems such as muscle weakness or muscle cramps can occur. It can also affect the heart's ability to pump blood.
Low value of potassium can also occur if you have lost salts, which for example can happen after diarrhea and vomiting. It can also occur if you eat large amounts of licorice. Low values can also be seen in impaired kidney disease instead of a high value.
What can a high value of potassium mean?
High levels of potassium in the blood are called hyperkalemia. Problems that can occur in connection with it are nausea, weakness and the heart beating irregularly. This applies if your potassium value is greatly elevated. In the case of a slightly elevated potassium value, no problems or symptoms usually occur.
In case of reduced kidney function, excretion of potassium can decrease, which can lead to an increased potassium value in the blood. The kidneys have important tasks, one of which is to control the potassium level.
Other causes of elevated potassium values are some medicines that can cause the level of potassium in the blood to increase, unusual diseases of the adrenal glands and major wounds or muscle damage.
Symptoms of reduced kidney function
The symptoms of chronic kidney failure, or chronic kidney failure, develop slowly. They can only appear when kidney function becomes so impaired that waste products begin to accumulate in the blood, then they can express themselves like this:
- loss of appetite
- impaired muscle power.