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Furosemide & Potassium

by
author image Adam Cloe
Adam Cloe has been published in various scientific journals, including the "Journal of Biochemistry." He is currently a pathology resident at the University of Chicago. Cloe holds a Bachelor of Arts in biochemistry from Boston University, a M.D. from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in pathology from the University of Chicago.
Furosemide & Potassium
Bananas next to a bowl of oats Photo Credit Vladislav Nosick/iStock/Getty Images

Furosemide is used to treat high blood pressure, liver disease and fluid retention. This medication affects the composition of the urine and can lead to changes in the levels of electrolytes, including potassium. If you are taking furosemide, your doctor may need to monitor your potassium levels or have you consume more potassium.

Uses of Furosemide

Furosemide works as a diuretic, which means that it causes the body to secrete more fluid into the urine. This can be used to treat certain conditions, such as congestive heart failure and liver failure. It is also helpful to treat certain types of kidney disease that can cause fluid to accumulate in the body, leading to swelling. Because the diuretic effect of furosemide also lowers the volume of the blood, patients can take it to treat high blood pressure.

Mechanism and Potassium Loss

Furosemide works by inhibiting the parts of the kidney that reabsorb the electrolytes sodium and chloride from the urine. By inhibiting this reabsorption, furosemide also causes less water to be reabsorbed, increasing the volume of the urine. These changes, however, can make it hard for the kidneys to reabsorb potassium, which causes more potassium to be lost in the urine. This can cause a condition called hypokalemia.

Symptoms of Hypokalemia

Potassium is needed to maintain the health of every cell in the body. Low potassium levels can affect your heart, leading to abnormal heart rhythms and skipped beats. Hypokalemia can also cause your muscles to spasm or feel weak, and can cause numbness and tingling because of its effects on nerves. In addition, low potassium causes constipation and fatigue.

Treating Hypokalemia

Your doctor may need to periodically check your potassium levels while you take furosemide. Taking potassium supplements or eating foods high in potassium can help you correct the condition. Some foods that you can eat to increase your potassium intake include sweet potatoes, tomato sauces, beet greens and beans. Talk to your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet or taking any sort of supplement.

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