What is a potassium test?
Potassium is a major nutrient for the human body and is found in the blood. The mineral acts like an electrolyte and maintains the fluid level of the body. The acid-base balance of the body is maintained with the help of potassium. Potassium is also an important mineral needed for the movement of limbs and the maintenance of nerve activity. Most of the potassium tests that doctors recommend checking for the level of potassium in the blood.
However, some doctors also recommend a urine potassium test. The fluctuation of potassium levels in the blood can be a sign of potassium deficiency or other diseases. Therefore, certain signs and symptoms need potassium tests. Potassium tests can be done individually and at home. However, often a potassium test is included in many test panels. Sometimes, potassium tests are included in renal or metabolic profile tests.
Why is a potassium test done?
A potassium test can be done to check for the health status of the body. It is an important electrolyte and renal health indicator. Potassium levels are tested to know more about the health of the heart and nervous system. Doctors also suggest regular potassium testing if you have a potassium deficiency or abnormal levels of potassium. People suffering from diabetes and other metabolic disorders require tests to monitor metabolic functions. While potassium tests are not usually done for healthy people, some may get the test under routine check-ups. The potassium test costs from rupees 110 to 220. Patients can ask laboratory professionals to come home and collect a blood sample for the test. There are even self-test kits available online that help patients take potassium tests at home. Such test kits are convenient for patients who do frequent testing of the potassium levels in the blood. People with possible kidney problems and heart problems usually go for potassium tests frequently.
Signs and symptoms for potassium testing
There are some signs and symptoms of abnormal levels of potassium in the blood which require testing. The most common signs of potassium level fluctuation in the blood are as follows-
- Irregular heartbeat- The possibility of an irregular heartbeat is a sign of high potassium levels. Potassium affects heart health, and an irregular heartbeat is an indicator of potassium fluctuations.
- Muscle weakness– muscle weakness and cramps can be signs of potassium level fluctuation. The person might also experience twitches in limbs because of muscle and neural activity fluctuation.
- Nausea and constipation– Low levels of potassium in the body can lead to fluid level changes, which can also lead to constipation and nausea.
The condition of a high level of potassium in the blood is hyperkalemia, while a low level of potassium is known as hypokalemia. Both conditions can cause fluctuations in different metabolic functions and movements. The doctor might suggest potassium tests if the patient is under medication related to kidney function. If the person is taking diuretics, frequent potassium tests are done to monitor levels of electrolytes in the body.
How is a potassium test done at home?
In clinics and laboratories, potassium tests are done on blood samples collected by lab professionals. However, for patients needing frequent potassium tests, they can be done at home. Usually, at-home potassium testing is done on urine samples. Patients can use 24-hour urine tests at home to detect potassium levels in urine.
The patient needs to collect the urine sample as per the instructions of the test and monitor the results. If the at-home test results are below or above the normal range, the patient should talk to the doctor. If you are taking a blood test for potassium testing, you do not have to worry about the risks and complications. The blood test does not have any complex steps and is very safe. Usually, the person does not have to do any preparations for the test.
However, if you are going for metabolic profile testing, then it is best to fast for eight to twelve hours before testing. Often lab professionals do these tests on the patient in the morning before breakfast. The doctor might also suggest going off some medications that can affect the potassium level of the blood.
Test interpretation for potassium test
The test results can take a few minutes to a few days, depending on what type of test you are doing. The test results are evaluated on the scale of millimoles per liter. If the results fall under the reference range of 3.5 to 5 mmol/L, then the potassium levels are normal. In case of fluctuation, the patient has to consult the doctor and discuss further treatment options. The doctor might suggest some dietary changes and supplements or electrolyte infusions in case of abnormal potassium levels.
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