What Is the Connection between Furosemide and Potassium?

C. K. Lanz

The primary connection between the drug furosemide and potassium is that the medication often results in a loss of the mineral, increasing the risk of hypokalemia. Potassium is a crucial mineral and electrolyte that helps maintain the optimal function of all human tissues, cells, and organs. Furosemide is a type of water pill or loop diuretic that causes the kidneys to expel water and salt from the body. With this excess water potassium is also expelled. As a result of the link between furosemide and potassium, those taking the drug often have to consume a potassium supplement or potassium-rich foods to combat loss of the mineral.

Potassium is essential to the digestive system performing at an optimal level.
Potassium is essential to the digestive system performing at an optimal level.

There are various uses for the drug furosemide, but it is most often prescribed to reduce edema and fluid retention caused by liver and heart problems or to treat hypertension, which is high blood pressure. It is available either as a tablet or a liquid and is typically taken once or twice a day. This medication is a loop diuretic or water pill that works by causing the kidneys to expel excess water and salt into the patient’s urine. The link between furosemide and potassium means that potassium and other vitamins and minerals are often expelled from the body as well, increasing a patient’s risk of hypokalemia or low potassium levels while taking the drug.

Furosemide may be prescribed to treat high blood pressure.
Furosemide may be prescribed to treat high blood pressure.

Potassium is a mineral essential for the optimal functioning of the kidneys, heart, and digestive system. Muscles and nerves also require potassium to function. Additionally, potassium is an electrolyte, helping to conduct electricity in the body. This mineral and electrolyte is found inside every cell of the human body.

Tomatoes are rich in potassium.
Tomatoes are rich in potassium.

A patient taking furosemide must be aware of his or her potassium levels. If potassium levels drop too low, hypokalemia can develop. Symptoms include weakness or lack of energy, muscle cramps, and stomach problems. This condition can be life threatening when an irregular heartbeat develops and should be treated by a medical professional.

Furosemide can cause those who take the medication to urinate more frequently than usual.
Furosemide can cause those who take the medication to urinate more frequently than usual.

As a result of the connection between furosemide and potassium, a doctor may schedule a series of blood tests for a patient taking the drug. These blood tests will help the doctor monitor the patient’s potassium levels. If necessary, the patient may have to take a potassium supplement or consume potassium-rich foods in order to combat the loss of the mineral through urination. Some versions of furosemide even include an additional dose of potassium.

If potassium levels get too low, patients taking furosemide may experience muscle cramps.
If potassium levels get too low, patients taking furosemide may experience muscle cramps.

Rather than take a potassium supplement, patients may consider incorporating more potassium-rich foods into their diets as a consequence of the link between furosemide and potassium. A half-cup of orange juice, avocado, or cooked dried beans are all sources of the mineral. A large banana, a baked potato, or a cup of tomato juice is high in potassium as well. Patients taking furosemide usually have two servings of a potassium-rich food daily.

If a person's potassium levels drop too low, stomach problems may develop.
If a person's potassium levels drop too low, stomach problems may develop.

In addition to a loss of potassium, other side effects are associated with furosemide. The most common is frequent urination that can persist for up to six hours after taking a dose but should gradually decrease after a several weeks. Additional side effects include muscle cramps, gastrointestinal problems, and headache. Those that experience signs of a severe allergic reaction like sore throat, severe rash, or difficulty breathing should seek medical attention immediately.

Orange juice is a source of dietary potassium.
Orange juice is a source of dietary potassium.
Sore throat is considered a serious side effect of taking furosemide.
Sore throat is considered a serious side effect of taking furosemide.
Ingesting potassium can lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure.
Ingesting potassium can lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure.

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