Insulin Causing Hypokalemia – All Causes And Symptoms!

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What's Inside

A normal healthy blood flow is one of the resistant barriers to many severe diseases. However, the blood flow is healthy only when it consists of an adequate amount of minerals.

One of those vital minerals is potassium. Each mineral needs to be present at a certain level, a low potassium level in blood is called hypokalemia in medical terms.

Hypokalemia – Low Potassium Factor

There are several causes of hypokalemia in the history of medical science. However, according to several medical research studies, insulin is one of the causes.

Insulin Causing Hypokalemia - All Causes And Symptoms

Insulin overdose can cause hypokalemia, to be more specific. Although it seems a little off-bit it is true and this article is a brief discussion on how insulin causes hypokalemia.

Hypokalemia: Definition and causes

In terms of vitality, potassium plays a considerable role in your body functioning normally. For example, a healthy potassium level in the blood helps in muscle movement, provides essential nutrients to the cell, and helps with nerves sending signals.

An adequate amount of potassium in blood resists high blood pressure and it is also vital for the cells in your heart.

Sometimes due to several reasons, the potassium level drops in the blood, and when this fall occurs the condition is known as hypokalemia.

In simple words, a low potassium level in the blood is called hypokalemia. Before discussing the link between insulin

Hypokalemia Causes

Hypokalemia can occur, particularly because of some severe diseases or conditions such as

Liddle syndrome, Bartter syndrome, Cushing syndrome, etc. But also through some common health issues. For example –

Due to some disease conditions

• Vomiting too much,
• Diarrhea, 
• Dysfunctional kidneys,
• Too much urination or consuming diuretics or water pills
• Insulin
• Risperdal and Seroquel
• Albuterol

However, these are not the only causes, not having enough potassium in your diet can also cause hypokalemia. It includes –

Low Potassium in diet

• Renal tubular acidosis
• Low magnesium levels
• high ketone level in blood
• overconsumption of alcohol
• excessive sweating
• certain antibiotic consumption 
• certain medications for asthma
• low magnesium level
• Folic acid deficiency
• laxative intake for a long time etc.
• Folic acid deficiency
• primary aldosteronism

Symptoms Of Hypokalemia

Hypokalemia may not always occur with noticeable symptoms. However, sometimes there may be a few signs when you should get a blood test to check your potassium level. Symptoms of hypokalemia may include –

• Vomiting
• nausea
• weakness or fatigue
• Bloating, constipation
• Depression
• Delusion and even hallucination at worst
• Frequent palpitation
• Low blood pressure
• Muscle cramps, abdominal cramps
• Numbness
• Frequently fainting due to fatigue
•  Excessive urination

Insulin And Hypokalemia

Chronic hypokalemia is a common factor in diabetic patients. According to studies the most common reason that causes hypokalemia in diabetic patients is hyporeninemic hypoaldosteronism syndrome along with insulin deficiency, drugs to spare potassium, and hypertonicity.

Hypokalemia is seen more in diabetic patients than in general mostly due to the shift of hypokalemia. Specifically, the redistribution of potassium from intercellular to extracellular induces hypokalemia without any increase in potassium.

Insulin stimulates the activities of Na+ – H+ antiporter on the cell membrane which promotes the entry of sodium into cells. The sodium entrance activates Na+ – K+ ATPase which causes potassium electrogenic influx.

The entire process caused by insulin shifts potassium into cells. Moreover, IV insulin plays a role in reducing potassium levels. It leads to a decline in serum potassium level that depends on the dosage. 

Within 15 minutes of injecting insulin, every 10 units of insulin reduce the serum potassium by 0.6-1.2mMol/L. The effect lasts up to 6 hours. Moreover, it causes many unwanted effects.

Insulin Overdose 

Insulin helps to treat several chronic diseases but if taken in an excessive amount the overdose can be a threat to your life. Insulin overdose is nothing but intentional poisoning which leads to a severe condition called hypoglycemia.

Insulin Overdose 

Insulin overdose drops the glucose and potassium level in the blood which can take up to 60hours to recover. Recovery time for hypoglycemia depends based on the amount of insulin injected into the blood. However, in some cases, the treatment has to be aggressive to take the potassium and glucose levels up. 

Although it’s not hypoglycemia that enhances or causes hypokalemia, several studies have shown a link between these two. The link between hypoglycemia and hypokalemia is nothing other than insulin. Insulin is an essential part of hypoglycemia treatment.

Studies have shown that in extreme cases patients have to get aggressive treatment for hypoglycemia. The aggressive treatment for hypoglycemia involves over-dose of insulin and insulin overdose causes hypokalemia. 

During hypoglycemia, treatment adrenaline is released along with excess insulin, and administration stimulates potassium uptake from the bloodstream. Such aggressive administration leads to hypokalemia or low plasma potassium.

Final words

If you notice signs of hypokalemia, rush to your doctor for treatment. Although there can be several reasons why you might be facing low potassium levels or hypokalemia, it’s essential to get treated as fast as possible.

However, during your hypokalemia treatment make sure to uptake the potassium level too high as it will lead to hyperkalemia.

About Tim Mathew

Tim Mathew is an Endocrinologist specialized in general endocrinology, diabetes, and lipid metabolism. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in a science-related discipline and completed a medical school program in New York. Once Tim Mathew quoted that Endocrinology is both a challenging and rewarding medical specialty, so he wants to specialize in it. To know more about Tim Mathew kindly go through our about page.

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