The People's Perspective on Medicine

Potassium chloride, sustained action

Overview

K-Dur is a brand of controlled-release potassium chloride tablet. Although potassium is found in many foods (including apricots, bananas, beets, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, fish, peaches, potatoes, squash, tomatoes), long-term use of potassium-wasting diuretics can sometimes deplete the body of this essential mineral.

Severe diarrhea, especially with vomiting, and some metabolic disorders may also create a need for potassium replacement.

Side Effects and Interactions

The most common reactions to potassium supplements such as K-Dur are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach ache, and flatulence.

Any severe digestive disturbance or other symptom should be reported to the doctor promptly. Rash may occur rarely.

Symptoms of too much potassium include breathing difficulty, changes in heart rhythm, weakness, tiredness, and confusion.

High potassium levels sometimes cause no symptoms except life-threatening irregular heart rhythms.

Medications such as Accupril, Altace, Monopril, or Vasotec help the body conserve potassium
and may lead to potassium overload in conjunction with a potassium supplement such as K-Dur. Frequent monitoring becomes even more crucial if both drugs are prescribed.

Certain drugs, such as Bentyl or Pro-Banthine, can slow the digestive tract down. This may increase the risk of a tablet becoming lodged and causing intestinal irritation.

Check with your pharmacist and physician about this or any other drugs you take with K-Dur.

Special Precautions

Too much potassium is just as dangerous as too little. Anyone on K-Dur or other potassium supplement needs to have the blood level monitored regularly to make sure it is between 3.5 and 5.2 mEq/L.

This medicine is usually inappropriate for people on potassium-sparing diuretics (amiloride, Dyazide, spironolactone).

Another type of potassium chloride tablet has been associated with injury to the small bowel.

Although no such problems have been reported with K-Dur, doctors are urged to prescribe extended-release tablets only for those patients who can’t or won’t take liquid or effervescent potassium preparations.

Patients should notify the physician immediately if they develop abdominal pain, severe vomiting, or bloody or black, tarry stools.

Taking the Medicine

K-Dur should be taken with or right after meals with a full glass of water. Do not chew or crush tablets before swallowing.

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    About the Author
    Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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    Will too much potassium cause tender gums? I have been taking potassium supplements and have noticed my gums are irritated and tender.

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