What are oral potassium supplements, and how do they work (mechanism of action)?
Potassium preparations are used for supplementing potassium in order to treat or prevent low potassium levels in the blood (hypokalemia). Potassium is a major mineral (electrolyte) that is important for the function of every cell in the body. For example, it is important in nerve conduction, muscle contraction, and kidney function. Normal daily dietary intake of potassium is 40-150 mEq. Potassium deficiency occurs when potassium loss exceeds intake.
Potassium depletion may be caused by:
- excessive vomiting or diarrhea,
- diabetic ketoacidosis,
- diuretics (for example, furosemide [Lasix]),
- starvation, and
- rare disorders of the adrenal glands.
Potassium deficiency causes:
What brand names are available for oral potassium supplements?
Are oral potassium supplements available as a generic drug?
Do I need a prescription for oral potassium supplements?
What is potassium chloride used for?
Potassium chloride is a supplement used to treat low blood levels of potassium, a condition called hypokalemia.
What are the side effects of oral potassium supplements?
Common reactions to potassium are primarily gastrointestinal and include:
More important side effects include:
- high blood potassium levels,
- abnormal heart beats,
- bleeding or perforation of the stomach or small intestine from ulcers, and
- narrowing (stricture) of the small intestine from healed ulcers.
Irritation and damage to the stomach can be reduced by taking potassium supplements with meals or reducing the dose.
What is the dosage for oral potassium supplements?
- The usual recommendation for treatment of hypokalemia in adults is 20-40 mEq 2 to 4 times daily.
- The dose for prevention is 20 mEq daily.
- Oral potassium is usually taken with meals and fluids to prevent intestinal problems.
- Controlled release tablets should be swallowed whole.
Which drugs or supplements interact with oral potassium supplements?
Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors (for example, enalapril [Vasotec]), angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB) drugs (for example, valsartan [Diovan]), and certain diuretics (for example, spironolactone [Aldactone] and triamterene [Dyrenium]) increase potassium levels, causing high potassium levels in the blood when combined with potassium supplements. Potassium blood levels should be measured regularly in these patients.
Salt substitutes (for example, Mrs. Dash) often contain potassium. Therefore, using salt substitutes while taking potassium supplements may lead to high levels of potassium in the blood.
Drugs that slow transit of food through the intestine, for example, atropine and loperamide (Imodium), may delay passage of potassium tablets through the digestive system and result in ulceration or narrowing of the small intestine.
Are oral potassium supplements safe to take if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?
Potassium supplementation has not been adequately evaluated in pregnant women.
NURSING MOTHERS: If the mother's blood potassium level is normal, use of potassium supplements should not adversely affect the infant.
What else should I know about oral potassium supplements?
What preparations of oral potassium supplements are available?
- Tablet: 20 mEq
- Tablets (Extended release): 8, 10, 15, and 20 mEq
- Capsules: 8 and 10 mEq
- Injection: 1, 1.5, 2, 3, and 4 mEq/ml
- Plastic container: 10, 20, 30, and 40 mEq
How should I keep oral potassium supplements stored?
Potassium should be stored at room temperature, 15 C to 30 C (59 F to 86 F).