Hyperkalemia

Potassium is a mineral that is needed to help the heart, kidneys, and other organs function. Hyperkalemia is higher than normal levels of potassium in your blood. Potassium is needed to regulate water and mineral balance throughout the body. High levels can disturb the balance of other minerals in the body and cause muscle problems throughout the body. It can also affect the heart’s ability to function properly.

  • Causes

    Excess potassium is normally taken out of the blood through the kidneys. Kidney problems or conditions that affect the kidneys’ ability to filter can cause excess potassium in the blood.

    Cancer treatments can also cause hyperkalemia as cells are destroyed and potassium moves into the blood stream.

    Genetic disorders may also increase your risk of hyperkalemia.

  • Definition

    Potassium is a mineral that is needed to help the heart, kidneys, and other organs function. Hyperkalemia is higher than normal levels of potassium in your blood.

    Potassium is needed to regulate water and mineral balance throughout the body. High levels can disturb the balance of other minerals in the body and cause muscle problems throughout the body. It can also affect the heart’s ability to function properly.

  • Diagnosis

    You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

    Bodily fluids will be tested to determine potassium levels. This can be done with:

    • Blood tests
    • Urine tests

    An EKG will be done to see if the potassium is affecting your heart.

  • Prevention

    To help reduce your chance of getting hyperkalemia, manage risk factors such as diabetes.

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that may interfere with kidney function and lead to hyperkalemia include:

    • Kidney disease or failure—cannot excrete potassium
    • Systemic lupus erythematosus
    Kidney Damage
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    Factors that may increase your intake of potassium include:

    • Excess potassium supplements
    • Total parenteral nutrition
    • A diet that is high in potassium

    Certain medication may increase potassium levels:

    • ACE inhibitors
    • Potassium sparing diuretics
    • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
    • Beta blockers

  • Symptoms

    Hyperkalemia may not have any symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they may include:

    • Tiredness
    • Muscle weakness or paralysis
    • Irregular heartbeat
    • Constipation
    • Shortness of breath
    • Chest pain

  • Treatment

    Treatment is focused on decreasing blood potassium levels. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include: