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Disorders Associated With Low Potassium

Potassium is a mineral required by your body for the proper function of all organs, tissues and cells, and it is an electrolyte necessary for the heart to beat properly. In addition, potassium plays a vital role in muscular and digestive activities. Too much potassium is called hyperkalemia; too little potassium is hypokalemia. The amount of sodium and magnesium controls the amount of potassium the body retains.

Cushing's Syndrome

Cushing's syndrome is a disorder caused by elevated levels of the steroid hormone cortisol, the primary stress hormone, which releases glucose into the bloodstream and alters immune system responses 1.**

Blood work may indicate elevated blood sugar and white blood cell counts with low potassium levels. Treatment of Cushing's syndrome depends on the cause and may include decreasing corticosteroid use or surgery to remove the tumor 1.**

Bartter Syndrome

Bartter syndrome is a group of conditions affecting the kidneys in which too much sodium is lost, leading to a rise in aldosterone that makes the kidneys remove too much potassium 2.

Treatment for Bartter syndrome includes keeping the potassium levels above 3.5 mEq/L, or milliequivalents per liter, using supplements or a diet rich in potassium 2.**

Gitelman's Syndrome

Gitelman's syndrome is a defect that causes the kidneys to eliminate too much potassium, sodium, magnesium and chloride rather than reabsorbing into the bloodstream 2.** This salt-wasting disorder is the result of a defect in the distal tubule of the kidneys.

Low potassium and magnesium levels detected in routine lab work are often the first indication for the doctor to consider Gitelman's syndrome in adults 2.** Pediatric cases often present with symptoms such as muscle weakness, fatigue and cramps, according to The Bartter Site.

Treatment of Gitelman's syndrome includes potassium-sparing diuretics, electrolyte replacement, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and low-dose ACE inhibitors.

The Wrap Up

Potassium is a mineral required by your body for the proper function of all organs, tissues and cells, and it is an electrolyte necessary for the heart to beat properly. Bartter syndrome is a group of conditions affecting the kidneys in which too much sodium is lost, leading to a rise in aldosterone that makes the kidneys remove too much potassium. Low potassium and magnesium levels detected in routine lab work are often the first indication for the doctor to consider Gitelman's syndrome in adults.

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