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Reason for Low Potassium & White Blood Cell Count

by
author image Maura Banar
Maura Banar has been a professional writer since 2001 and is a psychotherapist. Her work has appeared in "Imagination, Cognition and Personality" and "Dreaming: The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Dreams." Banar received her Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Buffalo State College and her Master of Arts in mental health counseling from Medaille College.
Reason for Low Potassium & White Blood Cell Count
Low potassium and white blood cells can indicate serious illness. Photo Credit Photos.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images

Potassium is an essential nutrient that plays a role in regulation of heart rate, muscle contractions and digestion of food. Too many or too few infection-fighting white blood cells, according to Medline Plus, can indicate the presence of infection as well as other health conditions. Blood levels of both potassium and white blood cells can provide your physician with a comprehensive picture of your overall health.

Potassium

Potassium is present in every part of your body and it works closely with other nutrients like calcium and magnesium to regulate the biochemical balance of the blood. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, people who have impaired kidney functioning may be less efficient at processing excess potassium. As a result, a condition known as hyperkalemia or high blood potassium, develops and can cause symptoms such as cardiac irregularities and nausea. Conversely, hypokalemia or low blood potassium is characterized by symptoms such as cramping muscles, digestive problems and general weakness.

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White Blood Cells

White blood cells are responsible for identifying and counterattacking bacterial or viral attacks on your body. Additionally, certain white blood cells also have the capacity to manufacture antibody cells that can help protect your body from the spread of infection. According to The Franklin Institute, at any given time, your body can contain between 7,000 and 25,000 white blood cells, which subsequently die after a few days or weeks. Low white blood cell counts can indicate problems with your immune system or infection. In contrast, a high white blood cell count is often found in leukemia, a type of cancer of the blood.

Low Potassium and White Blood Cell Count

Low potassium levels and low white blood cell counts can occur simultaneously or independently due to the same condition or treatment approach. The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University explains that long periods of vomiting, taking diuretic medications and renal disease can all cause potassium levels to decrease. Additionally, low levels of white blood cells, known as neutropenia can be caused by chemotherapy treatment or infection due to impaired immunity, according to the University of California Davis. Once your body develops low numbers of white blood cells, you can develop secondary infections that impair the absorption of nutrients and the body's ability to maintain normal potassium levels.

Considerations

Potassium and white blood cells exist in a delicate balance in your body. Both can be disrupted by illness, medication or malabsorption, and low numbers of either potassium or white blood cells can have significant damaging effects on your health. Individuals who have co-morbid conditions such as cancer and renal impairment may find themselves with low potassium. This can lead to decreased levels of calcium and other nutrients as the balance of one is contingent on the other.

Inadequate amounts of white blood cells can suppress immune system function, making it difficult to fight off opportunistic infections. Treatments for autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and AIDS can kill off white blood cells in an effort to impair the immune response. At the same time, even when these medications work, they may also throw the biochemical system out of balance.

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