Hyperkalemia (High Potassium): Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Hyperkalemia (High Potassium): Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

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What is hyperkalemia?

Potassium is a vital electrolyte, which is a mineral that is necessary for the body to have in order for it to operate well. Your nerves and muscles, including your heart, benefit tremendously from the presence of potassium in your body.

Even while receiving enough potassium is essential for good health, getting too much of this vitamin can be just as bad for you as not getting enough of it, or even worse.

Your kidneys are responsible for maintaining a normal healthy balance of potassium in your body by eliminating any excess potassium through your urine. However, this potassium level in your blood can become dangerously high for a variety of causes. This condition is known as hyperkalemia, which simply means a high potassium level.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, the following potassium concentrations, expressed as millimoles per liter (mmol/L) of blood, are considered to be normal and high, respectively:

The average is somewhere between 3.5 and 5.0

Extremely high: 5.1 to 6.0 out of 10

Extremely high: greater than 6.0.

Hypokalemia is the medical term used to describe potassium levels that are below 3.4. Potassium levels that are below 2.5 Trusted Source can pose a serious risk to one’s life.

A blood test can identify whether or not someone has a low potassium level. Depending on the laboratory, there is a possibility of very slight deviations in the ranges.

If you have hyperkalemia, regardless of how severe it is, you should seek immediate medical assistance in order to reduce the risk of developing problems.

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What causes high potassium levels?

Hyperkalemia can be caused by a number of factors, including issues with one’s health and the consumption of particular drugs.

Disease of the kidneys

Due to the damage that it causes to the kidneys, having renal disease might cause your potassium levels to rise. They are unable to eliminate the surplus potassium from your body, which results in its accumulation in your blood.

Forty to fifty percent of persons who have chronic renal disease also have potassium levels that are too high. Hyperkalemia is a prevalent factor that contributes to the progression of renal disease.


There is evidence that a connection exists between the consumption of particular drugs and elevated potassium levels. These are the following:

a number of chemotherapeutic medications

inhibitors of the enzyme angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE)

drugs that inhibit the angiotensin receptors


Your potassium levels could reach a range that is greater than usual or even harmful if you take too many potassium supplements than the recommended amount.


Consuming large amounts of alcohol can hasten the degeneration of your muscles. Because of this breakdown, a significant amount of potassium may be released from the muscle cells and into the bloodstream.

Burns that are too severe

The levels of potassium in your body might become elevated as a result of certain types of trauma, such as severe burns. Under these circumstances, additional potassium will escape from the cells of your body and enter your bloodstream.

Burns and crush injuries, both of which can cause damage to a significant number of muscle cells, can bring about these results.

Heart failure congestive in nature

Chronic congestive heart failure, also known as CHF, is a disorder that has an effect on the pumping ability of the heart. People who have CHF have a higher risk of developing elevated potassium levels, which occurs in about forty percent of cases.

The drugs that are prescribed for the treatment of CHF, including as angiotensin II receptor blockers, beta-blockers, and diuretics, could be one of the potential causes. These drugs have the potential to prevent the kidneys from doing their job of excreting potassium.


Because HIV can damage the filters in your kidneys, this can make them less capable of adequately excreting potassium. There is a correlation between the use of certain HIV medicines, such as sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim therapy, and increased potassium levels in the body.

Other issues related to health

A high potassium intake has also been connected to a variety of health issues, including the following:

dehydration type 1 diabetes

The sickness of Addison

internal bleeding

Signs and symptoms of potassium toxicity

The symptoms of having a high potassium level in your blood vary depending on how much of the mineral is present. It’s possible that you won’t have any symptoms at all. If your potassium levels are high enough to create symptoms, however, you may have the following conditions:

a state of weariness or weakness

a sensation of numbness or tingling, nausea or vomiting, difficulty breathing, chest pain, palpitations, or irregular heartbeats is among symptoms that may be experienced.

In extreme circumstances, potassium toxicity can lead to paralysis.

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When to seek medical attention for yourself

It is essential to take care of this situation as soon as possible because the side effects of having a high potassium level can be very significant.

Make an appointment with your primary care provider as soon as possible if you have any of the symptoms listed above and have either been diagnosed with high potassium or have reason to suspect that you may have it. If your symptoms are severe, you should call 911 or go to the nearest hospital with an emergency department.

In the event that your potassium levels are severely elevated, you will be required to remain hospitalised until such time as they return to the normal range.

It is recommended that you consult your physician for the following issues:

How much potassium should I take in each day?

What are some possible reasons for the high potassium level that I have?

What adjustments to my diet should I make in order to get this level down?

In the event that I require medication, will there be any adverse reactions?

How frequently do you recommend that I get my blood checked?

How high potassium is diagnosed

Your doctor will likely order a blood test in order to detect hyperkalemia. Blood tests are something that your doctor will do on a regular basis, whether it be during your annual visit or because you’ve recently begun taking a new medicine. These tests will reveal if there are any issues with the potassium levels in your body.

It is imperative that you be checked out on a frequent basis if you are at risk for excessive potassium levels. This is due to the fact that you might not be aware that you have excessive potassium levels until symptoms begin to present themselves.

Therapy for high levels of potassium

The primary objective of treatment for excessive potassium levels is to assist your body in efficiently flushing out the excess potassium and to bring your heart rate back down to a normal rhythm.


If renal failure is the cause of your high potassium level, the most effective treatment for this condition is hemodialysis. When your kidneys are unable to filter your blood adequately, a process called hemodialysis can be used to remove waste from your blood using a machine. This includes excess potassium.


To treat your excessive potassium levels, your doctor may also prescribe medication for you to take. These may include the following:


Diuretics are medications that make you urinate more frequently and could be the first thing that your physician prescribes for you. Some diuretics cause an increase in the quantity of potassium that is excreted by the kidneys, while other diuretics do not cause a rise in this excretion.

Your physician may advise you to take one or more of the following types of diuretics, depending on the amount of potassium that is currently in your system:

loop diuretics

potassium-sparing diuretics

thiazide diuretics

There are several different kinds of diuretics, and each one works on a specific region of the kidneys.


You might be given a medication that is in the form of a resin to take by mouth in certain circumstances. Potassium is able to be expelled from the body through bowel movements because resin attaches to it and prevents it from being absorbed.

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Medication and treatment for an unexpected emergency

It may be necessary to inject drugs through an intravenous line in a medical facility as an emergency treatment in order to bring down extremely high potassium levels.

These drugs, in contrast to resin and diuretics, only have a short-term impact on the body. They assist regulate your potassium levels and lessen the impact that potassium deficiency has on your heart.

These prescription drugs consist of:

calcium gluconate

calcium chloride

insulin plus glucose, or insulin on its own, is the treatment of choice for those who have hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)

sodium bicarbonate

Managing excessive potassium

You absolutely have to seek treatment as soon as possible if your high potassium level is significant. However, if your potassium levels are only slightly elevated, you might be able to bring them down by making some adjustments to the way you eat.

The National Kidney Foundation recommends that individuals following a low-potassium diet consume no more than 2,000 milligrams (mg) of potassium on a daily basis. Foods classified as low in potassium often have a serving size of fewer than 200 milligrams.

Be sure to address your high potassium by following the directions given to you by your doctor, and discuss with your physician the type of diet that would work best for you. You also have the option of asking to be referred to a nutritionist or dietitian.

foods that are not hazardous to one’s health

These foods contain a relatively low amount of potassium:

fruits such as apples, berries, cherries, and grapefruit veggies include green beans, peas, eggplant, mushrooms, and kale

Cakes, pastries, and pies that do not contain chocolate, nuts, or fruits that are high in potassium are examples of protein sources. Other examples include eggs, poultry, canned tuna, and beef.

A list of beverages that are low in potassium:

water \stea \scoffee

Foods to stay away from

The following are examples of foods and beverages that are high in potassium and, as a result, should be avoided or consumed in moderation:

Fruits such as bananas, avocados, oranges, and raisins; vegetables such as artichokes, brussels sprouts, and potatoes; tomatoes; and goods based on tomatoes such as tomato juice, tomato sauce, and tomato paste; nuts, seeds, and peanut butter; and

beans like baked beans, black beans, lentils, and legumes

a number of medicinal plants and herbal supplements, such as alfalfa, coriander, nettle, and turmeric, as well as dairy products like milk and yogurt,chocolate

Potassium content can be quite high in many salt alternatives. When shopping for a salt substitute, you should steer clear of any brand that has potassium chloride on the ingredient list.

Potassium content is typically high in foods that are also heavy in additives. These foods include commercially baked products and sports drinks.

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Problems caused by having a high potassium level

If not managed, excessive potassium levels can result in a number of issues, including the following:

a lack of strength arrhythmia, a heart condition that alters the rate or rhythm of your heartbeats heart attack cardiac arrest, a very serious condition in which your heart suddenly stops beating

lowering excessive levels of potassium

You can assist prevent dangerously high levels of potassium by doing the following:

Adhere to a diet that is low in potassium.

Avoid salt alternatives.

Steer clear of herbal dietary supplements. There is a possibility that some of them contain components that raise your potassium levels.

Make sure you stick to your treatment plan. If you have a significant health condition such as heart disease, kidney disease, or another ailment, it is imperative that you closely adhere to the treatment plan prescribed by your healthcare expert.


If you are at risk for this illness, you should have your blood checked on a frequent basis. This is because the early indications of excessive potassium levels may not present themselves.

If your blood tests reveal that you have high potassium levels, your physician will determine the treatment strategy that is best suited for you based on the results of the testing.

If your levels are at an unsafe level, your doctor may recommend that you be hospitalised or that you begin dialysis treatment. But let’s say your potassium levels are only marginally higher than normal, and you don’t exhibit any of the other symptoms associated with hyperkalemia. If this is the case, your primary care physician may decide to monitor your condition and request more testing.

In either scenario, quick medical attention is required in order to successfully treat excessive potassium levels.

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