Hypokalemia (Low Potassium) in Elderly Group

Hypokalemia may result from inadequate potassium intake, increased potassium excretion, or a shift of potassium from the extracellular to the intracellular space. Increased excretion is the most common mechanism. Electrolyte imbalance is a common problem affecting the elderly. Increased number of comorbidities and frequent use of drugs may contribute to increased risk of hypokalemia in the elderly

Lower potassium levels in elderly may lead severe problem and worse case scenario fatal death can occur if levels are too low. Severe hypokalemia may manifest as bradycardia with cardiovascular collapse. Cardiac arrhythmias and acute respiratory failure from muscle paralysis are life-threatening complications that require immediate diagnosis.

 In general population, inadequate oral intake, gastrointestinal and renal losses are the most common reasons for hypokalemia. Specific medications such as diuretics are one of the leading risk factors for hypokalemia.


We at Doctor House advise family members to catch this Early signs of hypokalemia?

Have you heard your elderly parents complaining such sign and symptoms?

  • Body weakness.
  • Fatigue.
  • Muscle cramps or twitching.
  • Constipation.
  • Arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythms)
  • Worsening diabetes control or polyuria.
  • Palpitations.
  • Tingling or numbness.
  • Psychological symptoms (eg, psychosis, delirium, hallucinations, depression)
  • Memory impairment
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion


Causes of Hypokalemia

Hypokalemia results from abnormal losses, transcellular shifts, or insufficient intake .Abnormal losses are most common. Because the kidney can significantly lower potassium excretion in response to decreased intake, insufficient intake is rarely the sole cause of hypokalemia.

What Causes Low Potassium in Elderly Adults?

Malnutrition and dehydration. Eating unhealthy foods, or not eating at all, can deplete your body of vitamins and minerals. Lack of hydration can also lead to a loss of potassium in cells. The most common cause is excessive potassium loss in urine due to prescription medications that increase urination. Also known as water pills or diuretics, these types of medications are often prescribed for people who have high blood pressure or heart disease

If left untreated, both severe hypokalemia and severe hyperkalemia can lead to paralysis, cardiac arrhythmias, and cardiac arrest. Hyperkalemia, generally carries a higher risk of morbidity and mortality if left untreated. Severe hypokalemia may also cause respiratory failure, constipation and ileus.


Patient: Doctor House, Can low potassium cause a heart attack?

If potassium levels in the blood get too low, you can develop an abnormal heart rhythm or even have a heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest.

We at Doctor House provide house visit to examine and evaluate patient’s condition to rule out Hypokalemia conditions.

Blood test for electrolytes will be taken to rule out any imbalance.

We provide further treatment to make sure patient recovers from this sign and symptoms.

In severe hypokalemia, we will reevaluate condition and will refer to a tertiary centre if its necessary.