What is high potassium level?

Hyperkalemia: Overview

Hyperkalemia is too much potassium in the blood. Potassium helps keep the right mix of fluids in your body. It also helps your nerves and muscles work as they should. And it keeps your heartbeat in a normal rhythm. Some things can raise potassium levels. These include some health problems, medicines, and kidney problems. (Normally, your kidneys remove extra potassium.)

Too much potassium can cause nausea. It also can cause a heartbeat that isn't normal. But you may not have any symptoms. Too much potassium can be dangerous. That's why it's important to treat it. If you are taking any of the medicines that can raise your levels, your doctor will ask you to stop. You may get medicines to lower your levels. And you may have to limit or not eat foods that have a lot of potassium.

What are the symptoms of hyperkalemia?

Symptoms vary. You may have a heartbeat that is too slow or too fast or that feels like fluttering. You may have nausea, muscle aches, or weakness. You may have no symptoms at all. In severe cases, your heart may stop due to cardiac arrest.

How is hyperkalemia treated?

If your hyperkalemia is caused by a kidney problem, that condition will be treated. Your doctor may have you eat foods with less potassium and not use a salt substitute containing potassium. Your medicines may be changed to ones that don't raise your potassium levels. You may get medicine to lower these levels.

How can you prevent hyperkalemia?

You may prevent hyperkalemia by following a low-potassium diet, if your doctor suggests it. You can also avoid fasting or diets that are too low in calories.

How is hyperkalemia diagnosed?

To diagnose hyperkalemia, your doctor will examine you and ask about your health. You will have a blood test. If your heart might be affected, your doctor may give you an electrocardiogram (EKG) test to check for problems with your heart.

How can you care for yourself when you have hyperkalemia?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Stop taking certain medicines if your doctor asks you to. They may be causing your high potassium levels. If you have concerns about stopping medicine, talk with your doctor.
  • If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink. If the doctor says it's okay, drink plenty of fluids.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise until your doctor tells you it is okay.
  • Be aware of potassium in your diet. Potassium is in many foods, including vegetables, fruits, and milk products.
    • Foods high in potassium include bananas, cantaloupe, broccoli, milk, potatoes, and tomatoes.
    • Low-potassium foods include blueberries, raspberries, cucumber, white or brown rice, pasta, and noodles.
  • Do not use a salt substitute without talking to your doctor first. Most of these are very high in potassium.
  • Be sure to tell your doctor about any prescription, over-the-counter, or herbal medicines you take. Some of these can raise potassium.

What are the risks of a high or low potassium level?

A potassium level that is too high or too low can be serious. It may cause symptoms such as muscle cramps or weakness, nausea, diarrhea, frequent urination, and dehydration. It may also cause low blood pressure, confusion, paralysis, and changes in heart rhythm. A blood or urine test can be done to find your potassium level.

Healthy kidneys keep the right amount of potassium in the blood. Your potassium level can be affected by many things, including how well your kidneys are working and certain medicines.

What causes hyperkalemia?

Hyperkalemia may be caused by problems with the kidneys. Another cause may be medicines, such as beta-blockers, that treat high blood pressure or heart problems. It can also be caused by damage to body tissues due to a severe injury or a heart attack.

What is hyperkalemia?

Hyperkalemia (say "hy-per-kay-LEE-mee-uh") is a high level of potassium in the blood. Potassium is both an electrolyte and a mineral. It helps keep the right mix of fluids in your body. It also helps keep your heart beating normally and your nerves and muscles working as they should.

Hyperkalemia: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have an unusual heartbeat. Your heart may beat fast or skip beats.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have muscle aches.
  • You feel very weak.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.