Low potassium (hypokalemia) has many causes. 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.
Vomiting, diarrhea or both also can result in excessive potassium loss from the digestive tract. Occasionally, low potassium is caused by not getting enough potassium in your diet.
Causes of potassium loss include:
- Alcohol use (excessive)
- Chronic kidney disease
- Diabetic ketoacidosis (high levels of blood acids called ketones)
- Diuretics (water retention relievers)
- Excessive laxative use
- Excessive sweating
- Folic acid deficiency
- Primary aldosteronism
- Some antibiotic use
Jan. 11, 2018
Causes shown here are commonly associated with this symptom. Work with your doctor or other health care professional for an accurate diagnosis.
- Adams JG. Potassium. In: Emergency Medicine: Clinical Essentials. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2013. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed May 5, 2017.
- Hypokalemia. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/endocrine_and_metabolic_disorders/electrolyte_disorders/hypokalemia.html. Accessed April 5, 2017.
- Mount DB, et al. Causes of hypokalemia in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 5, 2017.
- Mount DB, et al. Clinical manifestations and treatment of hypokalemia in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 5, 2017.
- Potassium, serum. Mayo Medical Laboratories. http://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com/test-catalog/Clinical+and+Interpretive/81390. Accessed April 28, 2017.