What Causes Low Potassium & a Low Sodium Count?
The human body needs sodium and potassium to remain healthy. These two electrolytes have many functions including maintaining nerve and muscle function. A decrease in blood sodium concentration, also called hyponatremia, can cause seizures, while low potassium levels in the bloodstream, or hypokalemia, can lead to heart problems. Hypokalemia and hyponatremia have many causes.
Antidiuretic Hormone Secretion
The hypothalamus produces antidiuretic hormone. It is then transported to the pituitary gland for storage and secretion. Antidiuretic hormone stimulates the kidneys to retain water. In syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion, the body is exposed to high levels of antidiuretic hormone. In response, the kidneys reabsorb more water. This leads to an increase in the amount of water in the body and hyponatremia. Medscape explains that in this type of hyponatremia, the body does not lose or lack sodium. The excess water in the body, however, dilutes the amount of sodium in the body and reduces its concentration.
- The hypothalamus produces antidiuretic hormone.
- In syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion, the body is exposed to high levels of antidiuretic hormone.
Can Thyroid Problems Cause High Potassium?
Aldosterone is a hormone that regulates blood levels of sodium and potassium. It is produced by the adrenal glands and under normal circumstances, it signals the kidneys to retain sodium and excrete potassium. In a disease called hyperaldosteronism, the adrenal glands produce abnormally high amounts of aldosterone. This stimulates the kidneys to retain sodium and excrete more potassium. Consequently, potassium levels fall and hypokalemia occurs.
Addison's disease is a hormonal disease that causes low sodium levels. In this disorder, aldosterone levels are low. Therefore, the kidneys retain more potassium and excrete more sodium. This leads to a drop in sodium levels in the body and hyponatremia.
- Aldosterone is a hormone that regulates blood levels of sodium and potassium.
- In this disorder, aldosterone levels are low.
Hyperthyroidism is a disorder characterized by higher than normal levels of thyroid hormone. People who have this disease can also suffer from a condition called thyrotoxic periodic paralysis. Most of the body's potassium content is found within the cells and not in the bloodstream. According the Merck Manuals Online Medical Library, movement of potassium in the bloodstream to the cells can cause hypokalemia.
People who have thyrotoxic periodic paralysis experience periods of paralysis during which their potassium levels drop. Medline Plus notes that these episodes happen after symptoms of hyperthyroidism show up.
- Hyperthyroidism is a disorder characterized by higher than normal levels of thyroid hormone.
- People who have thyrotoxic periodic paralysis experience periods of paralysis during which their potassium levels drop.
Can Thyroid Problems Cause High Potassium?
Essential Electrolytes and Tremors
Dehydration and Sodium Levels
Potassium Levels in Cushing's Disease
Electrolytes & Dehydration
Electrolyte Imbalance in Kidney Failure
Potassium Chloride & Heart Attacks
How Much Potassium Does a Female Need?
Furosemide & Potassium
Signs of Too Much Vitamin D3
- Merck Manuals Online Medical Library: Sodium
- Medscape: Syndrome of Inappropriate Antidiuretic Hormone Secretion
- MedlinePlus: Thyrotoxic Periodic Paralysis
- Merck Manuals Online Medical Library: Potassium
- Merck Manuals Online Medical Library: Adrenal Gland Disorders
- Castillo JP. Mechanism of potassium ion uptake by the Na(+)/K(+)-ATPase.Nat Commun. 2015 Jul 24;6:7622. doi: 10.1038/ncomms8622.
- Cheungpasitporn W, et al. Pathophysiology of vomiting-induced hypokalemia and diagnostic approach.Am J Emerg Med. 2012 Feb;30(2):384. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2011.10.005. Epub 2011 Dec 12.
- Liamis G. Diabetes mellitus and electrolyte disorders.World J Clin Cases. 2014 Oct 16; 2(10): 488–496. Published online 2014 Oct 16. doi: 10.12998/wjcc.v2.i10.488
- Sebastian A. Renal potassium wasting in renal tubular acidosis (RTA). Its occurrence in types 1 and 2 RTA despite sustained correction of systemic acidosis. J Clin Invest. 1971 Mar; 50(3): 667–678.
Ngozi Oguejiofo has been writing on a freelance basis since 2009 and most of her writings are focused on health. She is currently a registered nurse. She is interested in teaching, and writes articles focused on student nurses for various online publications.