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.
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:
There are often no symptoms with a high level of potassium. When symptoms do occur, they may include:
The doctor will perform a physical exam and ask about your symptoms.
Tests that may be ordered include:
You will need emergency treatment if your potassium level is very high, or if you have danger signs, such as changes in an ECG.
Emergency treatment may include:
Changes in your diet can help both prevent and treat high potassium levels. You may be asked to:
Your doctor may make the following changes to your medicines:
Follow your health care provider's directions when taking your medicines:
Hyperkalemia; Potassium - high; High blood potassium
Seifter JL. Potassium disorders. In: Goldman L, Schafer, AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 119.
Updated by: 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.
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