High potassium level Definition
High potassium level is a problem in which the amount of potassium in the blood is higher than normal. The medical name of this condition is hyperkalemia.
Hyperkalemia; Potassium - high; High blood potassium
Potassium is needed for cells to function properly. You get potassium through food. The kidneys remove excess potassium in the urine to keep a proper balance of this mineral in the body.
If your kidneys are not working well, they may not be able to remove the proper amount of potassium. As a result, potassium can build up in the blood. This buildup can be due to:
Burns over large areas of the body
Certain medicines such as water pills (diuretics) or blood pressure drugs
Damage to muscle and other cells from certain street drugs, alcohol abuse, untreated seizures, surgery, crush injuries and falls, certain chemotherapy, or certain infections
Disorders that cause blood cells to burst ( hemolytic anemia)
Severe bleeding from the stomach or intestines
Taking extra potassium, such as salt substitutes or supplements
There are often no symptoms with a high level of potassium. When symptoms do occur, they may include:
Slow, weak, or irregular pulse
Sudden collapse, when the heartbeat gets too slow or even stops Exams and Tests
The doctor will perform a physical exam and ask about your symptoms.
Tests that may be ordered include:
Electrocardiogram (ECG) Potassium level
Your doctor will likely check your
blood potassium level and do kidney blood tests on a regular basis if you:
Have been prescribed extra potassium
Have chronic kidney disease
Take medications to treat heart disease or high blood pressure
Use salt substitutes Treatment
You will need emergency treatment if your potassium level is very high, or if you have danger signs, such as changes in an
Emergency treatment may include:
Calcium given into your veins (IV) to treat the muscle and heart effects of high potassium levels
Glucose and insulin given into your veins (IV) to help lower potassium levels long enough to correct the cause
Kidney dialysis if your kidney function is poor
Medications that help remove potassium from the intestines before it is absorbed
Sodium bicarbonate if the problem is caused by acidosis
Water pills (diuretics) to decrease total potassium
Changes in your diet can help both prevent and treat high potassium levels. You may be asked to:
Limit or avoid asparagus, avocados, potatoes, tomatoes or tomato sauce, winter squash, pumpkin, and cooked spinach
Limit or avoid oranges and orange juice, nectarines, Kiwis, raisins, or other dried fruit, bananas, cantaloupe, honeydew, prunes, and nectarines
Avoid taking salt substitutes if you are asked to eat a low-salt diet
Your doctor may make the following changes to your medicines:
Reduce or stop potassium supplements
Stop or change the doses of medicines you are taking, such as ones for heart disease and high blood pressure
Take a certain type of water pill to reduce potassium and fluid levels if you have chronic kidney failure
Follow your health care provider's directions when taking your medicines:
Do not stop or start taking medicines without first talking to your health care provider
Take your medicines on time
Always tell your health care provider about any other medicines, vitamins, or supplements you are taking References
Seifter JL. Potassium disorders. In: Goldman L, Schafer, AI, eds.
Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 119.
Brent Wisse, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Nutrition, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-
A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.