Low blood potassium. Potassium is the major positive ion (cation) found inside of cells. The chemical notation for potassium is K+. The proper level of potassium is essential for normal cell function. An abnormal decrease (or increase) of potassium can profoundly affect the nervous system and heart, and when extreme, can be fatal. The normal blood potassium level is 3.5 - 5.0 milliEquivalents/liter (mEq/L), or in international units, 3.5 - 5.0 millimoles/liter (mmol/L).
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The presence of an abnormally small concentration of potassium ions in the circulating blood; occurs in familial periodic paralysis and in potassium depletion due to excessive loss from the gastrointestinal tract or kidneys. The changes of h. may include vacuolation of renal tubular epithelial cytoplasm with impairment of urinary concentrating power and acidification, flattening of the T wave of the electrocardiogram, and muscle weakness. SYN: hypopotassemia. [hypo- + Mod. L. kalium, potassium, + G. haima, blood]

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hy·po·ka·le·mia or chiefly Brit hy·po·ka·lae·mia -kā-'lē-mē-ə n a deficiency of potassium in the blood called also hypopotassemia
hy·po·ka·le·mic or chiefly Brit hy·po·ka·lae·mic -'lē-mik adj

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hy·po·ka·le·mia (hi″po-kə-leґme-ə) [hypo- + L. kalium potassium + -emia] abnormally low potassium concentration in the blood; it may result from excessive potassium loss by the renal or the gastrointestinal route, from decreased intake, or from transcellular shifts. It may be manifested clinically by neuromuscular disorders ranging from weakness to paralysis, by electrocardiographic abnormalities (depression of the T wave and elevation of the U wave), by renal disease, and by gastrointestinal disorders.

Medical dictionary. 2011.

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