General potassium deficiency occurs as the result of a poor diet. Generally, the body needs to consume a great deal of potassium regularly because it is a natural diuretic in that it very easily absorbed and subsequently expelled through the system. On the whole, usually about 10-15% of all potassium consumed is regulated and maintained by the body for its needed function. Thus, when a very small amount of potassium is consumed, and considerably smaller amount is available to actually be used, causing potassium deficiency to develop fairly quickly.
Conversely, imbalances or problems in waste creation can cause severe problems with potassium intake. In the human gastrointestinal system, potassium is taken in through the small intestine. If the small intestine in inhibited in its absorption ability, or food is made to move too quickly through the small intestine, potassium absorption can be decreased significantly from its already diminished ratio to something almost negligible. Certain medications can also inhibit the absorption of potassium as an unfortunate side effect. Potassium deficiency symptoms are important to spot when they develop, as the condition can quickly degenerate into dangerous levels.
There are many potassium deficiency symptoms, and they generally vary greatly depending on the severity of the potassium deficiency. Those with very minor and largely harmless depletion will likely experience no potassium deficiency symptoms at all. Generally, the most common symptom at mild levels may be elevated blood pressure, which often does not lead to a diagnosis as that is a common symptom of many conditions. Generally, if potassium depletion worsens, more severe potassium deficiency symptoms will emerge.
Muscle pain, or myalgia, will generally begin to develop throughout the body, accompanied by muscle weakness and fatigue. Muscle cramps, due to dysfunction of the skeletal muscles, may develop, as will constipation. Severe potassium deficiency symptoms can see the muscles becoming completely flaccid, reflexes becoming minimalized, and more pronounced and involuntary muscle contractions, all of which are related to diminished functioning of the nervous system. Skeletal muscle may sometimes even begin to break down and dissolve, becoming absorbed into the blood stream, where they can become harmful to the kidneys. The muscles of the respiratory system may also become impaired.
Other potassium deficiency symptoms may include increased anxiety, memory problems, sleep disorders, hallucinations, and hypertension due to the deterioration of the nervous system. Severe acne can also develop due to the breakdown of chemical processes in the skin. Vomiting of blood and diarrhea may early signs of severe potassium deficiency.
Potassium deficiency symptoms are often enough to determine the condition, but they are usually complemented by blood testing and even encephalocardiograms which can determine the severity of a condition. Fairly mild potassium deficiency symptoms can usually be treated with an improved died of foods rich in potassium, such leafy greens, citrus fruits, bananas, oranges, tomatoes, beans, potatoes, and whole grains (many different varieties of potassium rich foods should be ingested in order to allow for increased ratio of potassium absorption). Potassium chloride supplements are a fairly common form of dietary supplement to alleviate magnesium levels. In many cases, when potassium deficiency is linked to diabetes, potassium supplementation, especially in terms of diet, will have to be more specialized, and limited mainly to certain fruits and vegetables.
Cases with severe potassium deficiency symptoms may require intravenous application of potassium directly to blood stream. This can be risky, and thus is often done at a fairly measured rate of dispersal, as it can cause heart problems.