Can low potassium cause seizures?

  • May 9, 2023
  • 3
In this article
Bananas are high in potassium

Your body uses certain chemicals called electrolytes to help regulate how it works. So, if you run low on electrolytes, it can lead to some serious problems - including, in some cases, seizures. Your body uses several different electrolytes, including sodium, calcium, magnesium, phosphates and potassium. 

Potassium is found in many foods, and your body turns it into an electrolyte. So, can low potassium cause seizures? Here’s what we know.

Can low potassium cause seizures?

No, probably not. There isn’t a huge amount of research into the notion of low potassium seizures. But a study from 2016 suggests that low potassium does not cause seizures. While low or high levels of other electrolytes such as sodium and calcium may trigger seizures, it doesn’t appear that potassium has this effect. 

Sometimes people have seizures that are ‘provoked’. This means they weren’t caused by a disorder in their brain, but instead they were caused by an external factor such as not having enough electrolytes. These seizures are serious and indicate there is something going wrong. But they are not the same as epileptic seizures.  

Related: What is a dissociative seizure?

People who have too little potassium may experience some symptoms that could be confused with seizures. They might twitch involuntarily, and may even experience paralysis of their muscles. This is not the same as a seizure, and has a different cause. 

Risks of low potassium

Although low potassium seizures do not appear to be a significant risk, it is still important to make sure you get enough of this vital mineral. People who don’t get enough potassium could develop a disorder called hypokalemia. This can cause:

  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Cramp
  • Weak, twitching muscles

Most people get all the potassium they need from their regular diets. But, if you get very sick and have diarrhea or vomiting, or you take a diuretic medication that causes you to pee a lot, this could lead to low potassium levels. 

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Treating low potassium

Doctors will need to do a blood test to find out if you have low potassium levels. If they find you are low on this electrolyte, they may suggest you take potassium supplements. You can also get potassium from many common foods, including:

  • Bananas
  • Avocados
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Beets
  • Potatoes
  • Dried fruits
  • Beans and lentils

Diet: Foods to avoid with epilepsy

Although low potassium is not generally seen as a cause of seizures, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor if you have any concerns about your health, or if you’re having seizure symptoms.

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