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The dominant cation (+) in intracellular Fluid (ICF)

Potassium is the dominant cation (+) in ICF. Potassium regulates cell excitability (unlike other ions, potassium can easily permeate cell membranes, thereby affecting the cellís electrical status. Potassium is involved in both ICF osmotic control and energy metabolism. Even slight deviations in either direction can produce profound disturbances, such as metabolic alkalosis (with potassium depletion) or metabolic acidosis (with potassium overload).

Hypokalemia is known to cause Malaise, irritability, confusion, depression, speech changes, decrease reflexes, respiratory paralysis, weakness, fatigue, leg cramps, dizziness, hypotension, arrhythmias, electrocardiogram changes (flattened T waves, elevated U waves, depressed ST segment) and even cardiac arrest. Hypokalemia has also been implicated in various intestinal disorders.

Hyperkalemia is known to cause hyperflexia, weakness, paresthesia (various, undefined sensations like pain, numbness, tingling etc.), flaccid paralysis, tachycardia leading to bradcardia, ECG changes include tented and elevated T waves, widened QRS complex, prolonged PR interval, flattened or absent P waves, depressed ST segment, also possible cardiac arrest and intestinal disturbances.

View the USDA list of potassium content in foods

Section Last Modified:
11/15/2009 17:02 PT