What Does Potassium Gluconate Do?

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What Does Potassium Gluconate Do?
What Does Potassium Gluconate Do? (Image: stock_xchng - Pills (stock photo by stevekrh19) [id 571622])

Potassium gluconate is an organic potassium salt that is given as a dietary supplement. Available as both an over-the-counter and a prescription medication, potassium gluconate is prescribed for individuals who need to replenish their bodies' potassium supply due to depletion from illness or certain medications. Potassium gluconate comes in liquid and tablet forms. Potassium is one of the most frequently prescribed minerals in the United States.

Function

Potassium is one of the primary electrolytes in the human body, carrying tiny positive electrical charges through the blood and cells. Potassium plays an important part in maintaining blood pressure, regulating the body's pH, balancing water content, regulating the heart beat and aiding nerve cell impulses. Additionally potassium contributes to the conversion of food to energy and the growth of muscle cells.

Features

Because of the importance of potassium to so many body functions potassium levels are measured routinely and supplements are prescribed often. Potassium can be depleted due to chronic illness, certain medications, poor diet, vomiting, excessive sweating and diarrhea. Symptoms of low potassium may include fatigue, muscle weakness, irregular heartbeat, depression or high blood pressure. Severe potassium deficiencies can result in heart irregularities, central nervous system issues and even death.

Effects

Normally the kidneys remove any excess potassium from the body, so high potassium levels are not an issue for healthy individuals. If the kidneys fail to remove potassium, as may be the case in kidney disease, a condition called hyperkalemia may result. Hyperkalemia can result in cardiac dysfunction, therefore it is important that individuals with low kidney function, diabetes or heart disease be monitored closely while taking potassium gluconate.

Considerations

Potassium gluconate is highly soluble and easily absorbed in the body. Potassium chloride, however, is the most frequently prescribed form of potassium supplement. This is because many individuals who require potassium also have low chloride levels. Potassium gluconate, however, is prescribed when the chloride level is normal or where an increased chloride intake is contraindicated, such as in certain types of kidney disease.

Warning

Although uncommon, serious side effects can result from taking potassium gluconate. These side effects: chest or throat pain, bloody or black stool and abdominal or stomach pain, require immediate medical attention. Symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea or tingling in the hands/feet are common and are not considered a medical emergency. There are many medications that should not be combined with potassium supplements. Consult your physician or pharmacist before starting any dietary supplement.

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