What Causes Low Potassium Levels in Females?

Numerous factors can cause hypokalemia, or low potassium levels, in females. Potassium is an electrolyte that is important for the proper function of your heart, nerve and muscle cells. Certain medical conditions or factors can cause women to experience low blood potassium levels. Hypokalemia-related symptoms may be mild, moderate or severe, depending on the cause of the deficiency.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders, especially anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, can cause low potassium levels in females. Eating disorders are a group of serious conditions in which you are so preoccupied or obsessed with food and weight that you cannot focus on other aspects of your life. Hypokalemia is common among bulimics and anorexics, according to a report in the August 9, 2011 issue of the "Canadian Medical Association Journal." Bulimia is an eating disorder that involves self-induced vomiting 1. Vomiting can significantly lower the amount of potassium in your body. Anorexia is a disease that involves prolonged fasting and starvation, and if you are anorexic, you may not be consuming enough potassium-containing foods. Common signs and symptoms associated with eating disorders include:

  • low potassium levels
  • excessive exercise
  • irregular heart rhythms
  • abnormal bowel functioning
  • distorted body image
  • menstrual irregularities
  • an intense fear of gaining weight

Vomiting During Pregnancy

Vomiting during pregnancy can cause decreased levels of potassium in women. The Cleveland Clinic states that hyperemesis gravidarum, or severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, is an uncommon condition that can lead to dehydration and decreased potassium levels in your body 3. Hyperemesis gravidarum might be caused by the rapid elevation of human chorionic gonadotropin, or HCG, and estrogen in your blood 3. Extreme nausea and vomiting during pregnancy may also indicate a multiple pregnancy or hydatidiform mole. A hydatidiform mole is abnormal tissue growth that is not a true pregnancy. Certain risk factors may increase your likelihood of developing hyperemesis gravidarum, including hyperemesis gravidarum during a previous pregnancy, being overweight or obese, having a multiple pregnancy and being a first-time mother 3.

Chronic Kidney Failure

Chronic kidney failure is the loss of kidney function over time and can cause low potassium levels in both men and women, but the Centers For Disease Control reports that it is more common in females. Your kidneys are responsible for filtering wastes and excess fluids from your blood, which are then voided in your urine. Chronic kidney failure can cause dangerous levels of fluid and metabolic waste products to accumulate in your body. Chronic kidney failure can be caused by numerous medical conditions, including lupus, scleroderma and polycystic kidney disease.