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The Advantages of Potassium Citrate Powder Vs. Pills

author image Shira Goldenholz
Shira Goldenholz has been writing since 2001. She has edited a neurosciences coursebook and co-authored an article published in the "Journal of Child Neurology." She has contributed to a report on children's mental health and has written for an autism website. She holds a medical degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Master in Public Health from Boston University.
The Advantages of Potassium Citrate Powder Vs. Pills
Patients with swallowing issues may prefer powdered potassium citrate. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images

Potassium citrate powder is used to treat a condition called metabolic acidosis. As explained in the medical reference UpToDate, in metabolic acidosis, the blood becomes more acidic for one of several reasons, one of which is kidney damage. As a pill, potassium citrate is used to prevent or treat kidney stones. Both the pill and powder form may be used to lower the amount of acid in the urine or in other words to increase the pH of the urine. Some patients may find that there are several possible advantages to the powder form.

Easier To Take

Dysphagia is a medical term that simply means difficulty with swallowing. Dysphagia, as explained by the National Institutes of Health website, MedlinePlus, may arise from many causes, ranging from blockages in the esophagus to infection to neurologic disease. Some patients may be unable to tolerate any sorts of foods or drinks. Others may notice that while solid foods are problematic, liquids are not. These patients may benefit from using the powdered form of potassium citrate, because there is no hard pill to swallow--just a liquid that is made by dissolving a packet of powder into water. For this specific patient population, the ability to minimize discomfort associated with swallowing is a definite advantage of the potassium citrate powder compared with the potassium citrate pills.

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Easily Used In Feeding Tubes

There are many reasons why a person may be unable to eat normally and may be fed via a feeding tube; similarly, there are a variety of feeding tubes available. As explained by the American Society for Enteral and Parenteral Nutrition, a feeding tube that may be passed from the nose into the stomach, bypassing the mouth and esophagus, is called a nasoenteral or nasogastric tube. Some tubes go directly into the stomach or intestine--these are called gastrostomy or jejunostomy tubes, respectively. For tube-fed patients, potassium citrate powder, unlike the pill form, can be mixed and placed directly into the tube. The pill form would have to be crushed first, which is not the way it is meant to be taken and this could possibly alter its effectiveness. Thus, if a patient who is receiving tube feeds is able to benefit from powdered potassium citrate, it is preferable that she uses this form.

Has Fewer Potential Side Effects

In considering the options of taking potassium citrate as a powder or as a pill, the primary consideration must of course be the underlying medical condition for which it is being taken. However, if a patient’s condition is such that either option may be used, another possible advantage of the powdered form of potassium citrate is that it is associated with fewer adverse effects. In the patient information available from UpToDate, side effects from powdered potassium citrate include diarrhea and abnormally high potassium. Symptoms of high potassium, or hyperkalemia, include weakness, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, and the development of strange sensations such as numbness and tingling. However, the side effects listed for the tablet form of potassium citrate besides hyperkalemia and diarrhea include nausea, bloating, abdominal pain, and vomiting. The UpToDate information for physicians adds that up to 10 percent of patients may experience shortness of breath when taking this medication. The potential for fewer side effects associated with powdered potassium citrate is therefore another advantage to using this formulation if possible.

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  • “UpToDate”; Approach to the Adult with Metabolic Acidosis; T. Post and B. Rose; June 2010
  • “UpToDate”; Enteral Feeding; R. Heuschkel and C. Duggan; June 2010
  • American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition: What is Enteral Nutrition?
  • “UpToDate”; Potassium Citrate (Tablet): Drug Information; Lexi-Comp, Inc.; 2010
  • “UpToDate”; Potassium Citrate (Tablet): Patient Drug Information; Lexi-Comp, Inc.; 2010
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