Potassium Citrate - Everything You Need To Know

By Ashley Henshaw. May 7th 2016

You may have seen potassium citrate tablets at the pharmacy, but had no idea what they are used to treat. For most people, potassium citrate isn't a normal element of their daily diet in the way that iron, calcium and certain vitamins should be. In fact, potassium citrate is generally used to alleviate very specific conditions, so for most people it isn't something they need to take on a daily basis or keep in their medicine cabinet. To find out what potassium citrate is used for, where to get it, and how much to take, continue reading this informative article.

What Does Potassium Citrate Do?

Potassium citrate is actually a citrate salt of potassium. This salt has the ability to lower acid levels in the human body. More specifically, potassium citrate is commonly used to treat renal tubular acidosis, a disease caused by the failure of the kidneys to excrete enough acid into urine. This results in higher than normal acid levels in the blood, which may lead to kidney stones, bone disease, chronic kidney disease or even total kidney failure. By helping to normalize acid levels in blood and urine, potassium citrate can help to alleviate renal tubular acidosis. However, it may take several weeks for the effects of taking potassium citrate to become noticeable.

Potassium citrate is often taken as a way to prevent kidney stones. Because high acid levels in an individual's urine can lead to kidney stones, potassium citrate can help to prevent this problem. For people who are not prone to kidney stones, potassium citrate is usually not needed to prevent this condition; in most cases, proper hydration and a healthy lifestyle are sufficient for preventing kidney stones. However, people who are at a higher risk for developing this condition may want to take potassium citrate. Groups that have a higher risk for kidney stones include women who have a urinary tract infection, and people who are undergoing chemotherapy. Additionally, people who have already had a kidney stone are much more likely to develop them again in the future. Talk to you doctor if you think you may need potassium citrate to help protect you from getting kidney stones.

Sources of Potassium Citrate

Potassium citrate is not available from food sources. This citrate salt is available as a medication, most commonly in pill or powder form, and is generally obtained with a prescription from a licensed physician. If you are taking a potassium citrate medication, pay special attention to the label to check for the dosage as this can vary between products. When using this medication as a pill or powder, try to take it within 30 minutes of eating a meal or a snack, and avoid lying down for about 30 minutes after taking it.

Side Effects

There are some side effects related to potassium citrate. Look out for symptoms like uneven heartbeat, muscle weakness, dizziness, lightheadedness or numbness, and tingling in the hands, feet or mouth. In some cases, individuals taking potassium citrate may also experience stomach pain or diarrhea. If any of these symptoms become severe, contact a physician as soon as possible.

Finally, tell your doctor if you have diabetes, kidney disease, heart damage, stomach ulcers, are prone to dehydration, or are pregnant or breastfeeding as you may not be able to take potassium citrate with these conditions.

Deficiency Symptoms

Because potassium citrate is not needed by the body daily, there are no deficiency symptoms related to this medication. It is important to note, however, that there may be side effects if you discontinue the regular use of potassium citrate. If your body experiences a sudden drop in potassium citrate, your condition could potentially worsen. If you are currently taking potassium citrate and would like to stop, ask a physician first to find out how to safely wean yourself off this supplement.

Daily Dosage Recommendations

Because potassium citrate is a medication taken only for certain conditions, there is no daily dosage recommendation for it. When prescribed, a physician will determine the daily dosage on an individual basis depending on that person's physical condition and symptoms. In mild cases of renal tubular acidosis, or when taken regularly to prevent kidney stones, most doctors recommend a lower dosage of about 30 milliequivalents (mEq). In more severe cases, physicians may prescribe a much higher daily dosage, such as 20 mEq, three times per day. Before you start taking a potassium citrate medication, it's important to see a physician so that your condition may be evaluated before a dosage is given.

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