The People's Perspective on Medicine

Potassium chloride controlled release

Overview

Micro-K is a specially formulated potassium supplement designed to slowly release potassium and chloride over 8 to 10 hours.

By taking potassium this way, patients are not supposed to experience the unpleasant taste many liquid potassium supplements leave in the mouth and it is hoped they will also have a lower risk of digestive tract irritation.

Potassium is an essential mineral that plays an important role in every cell in the body. It is crucial for normal heart rhythms.

Many medications can deplete the body of potassium, including diuretics and cortisone-type compounds.

This can be extremely dangerous, especially for people taking digitalis heart medicine.

Symptoms of potassium loss include weakness, palpitations, irregular heart rhythms and fatigue. However the only way you can really tell if your body is low in potassium is to have a blood test.

Normally, doctors prefer that patients with mild to moderate potassium loss replace this mineral through the diet.

Potassium-rich foods include vegetables such potatoes, beets, brussels sprouts, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, peppers and squash.

Fish and fruits like apricots, strawberries, bananas, oranges, peaches and plums are also good sources of potassium.

Some people may not be able to maintain adequate potassium levels even with a diet rich in such fruits and vegetables.

Periodic blood tests are crucial to monitor potassium levels in the body.

If such a test shows that potassium levels are low, your physician may recommend a liquid or effervescent potassium supplement. If the taste or discomfort is unbearable, he may prescribe a pill like Micro-K.

Side Effects and Interactions

There are substantial risks associated with solid potassium formulations. Medications like Micro-K may cause ulceration, bleeding, perforation or obstruction of the esophagus or digestive tract.

Contact your physician immediately if you think a pill has become stuck in your throat or if you experience stomach pain, vomiting or notice black or tarry stools.

Other adverse reactions associated with such potassium supplements include nausea, loss of appetite, and diarrhea. Report any such symptoms promptly.

Micro-K can interact with a number of other medications.

Blood pressure drugs such as Accupril, Altace, Capoten, Vasotec, Prinivil or Zestril can raise potassium to dangerous levels in combination with Micro-K.

The same thing could occur with potassium-based salt substitutes and potassium-sparing diuretics such as Aldactone, Dyazide, Dyrenium, Midamor or Moduretic.

Check with your doctor and pharmacist to make sure Micro-K is safe in combination with any other drugs you take.

Special Precautions

Because too much potassium can be just as dangerous as too little, it is important to have your doctor monitor your serum potassium levels periodically while taking Micro-K.

This is especially important for anyone with diminished kidney function, a common problem for older people.

Taking the Medicine

Micro-K should be taken with food and a full glass of water.

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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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