Symptoms of low serum potassium level

Patient

Q: Can you please tell me how long it takes to start feeling better after starting prescribed potassium pills for low potassium? It has been 5 days since I went to ER and I feel worse now than when I went in. Thank you in advance for any information you can provide.

Doctor

A:   The severity of symptoms of a low serum potassium level is dependent on the level of potassium in the blood and the duration by which the potassium level has been reduced. Symptoms generally do not appear until the serum potassium is <3.0 meq/L, unless the serum potassium falls rapidly. These symptoms may include muscle weakness, tetany, pins and needles and even paralysis, or heart rhythm disturbances if severe. Symptoms usually resolve with correction of the low potassium level, which can be administered in an oral or intravenous preparation. If your symptoms are not improving, I would advise attending your family physician for a repeat potassium level check, and appropriate supplementation.

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