Low potassium can come from a number of causes, including side effects of medications, GI losses such as diarrhea, hormonal or genetic disorders according to "Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine" by Anthony S. Fauci M.D. Low potassium effects the nerves and muscles and can cause problems with the heart rhythm. The most important element of treatment is addressing the underlying cause of the low potassium. In addition, foods with potassium may be added to the diet, and medications can be given to raise the potassium. Consult a physician regarding the cause and best treatment options for your condition.
Oral potassium is potassium that is swallowed, typically in pill form, but can also be given as a liquid suspension. It is usually used to treat mildly low potassium levels or is taken at regular intervals to sustain the potassium level, according to "Basic and Clinical Pharmacology" by Drs. Bertram Katzung, Susan Masters, and Anthony Trevor. Examples of brand name oral potassium include K-Dur, K-Lor, Klor-Con, Sando-K and Slow-K.
Intravenous potassium is delivered slowly into a vein to raise very low potassium levels. Small peripheral veins such as those in the hands or arms can be used to deliver dilute concentrations of potassium. Larger veins are used to deliver higher concentrations. It is important to administer the potassium slowly in order to not disrupt the heart rhythm. A burning sensation is also more likely in a small peripheral vein. Potassium chloride is added to intravenous fluids, typically saline, which is sodium chloride, or salt, suspended in water.
Potassium Sparing Diuretics
Diuretics increase the urine output. Many of them are associated with mineral loss, including potassium loss. However, potassium sparing diuretics are a special class that can actually raise the level of potassium. Examples include spironolactone, amiloride and triamterene.
Diuretics are prescribed for various conditions, including high blood pressure and heart failure. Potassium-sparing diuretics may be used to avoid lowering potassium levels. They may also be used in other conditions causing low potassium, such as hormonal disorders, particularly of the adrenal gland.
- "Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine"; Anthony S. Fauci; 17th Ed 2008
- "Basic and Clinical Pharmacology"; Bertram Katzung, Susan Masters, and Anthony Trevor; 11th Ed 2009