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Hyperkalemia

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Hyperkalemia is means presence of abnormal levels of potassium in blood. The normal range of potassium should be between 3.5-5.0 milliEquivalents per liter (mEq/L).
According to doctors, hyperkalemia can be categorized as:

  • Mild hyperkalemia -  5.1 mEq/L to 6.0 mEq/L
  • Moderate hyperkalemia -  6.1 mEq/L to 7.0 mEq/L
  • Severe hyperkalemia- > 7.0 mEq/L

Symptoms of hyperkalemia

Unless, the potassium level goes abnormally high, you won’t be experiencing any symptoms.
The symptoms that you should look out for are:

  • Weakness and tiredness in muscles, tingling sensation
  • Slow heartbeat, palpitation in heart
  • Diarrhoea

When to see a doctor?

If you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms, especially too much physical tiredness in your muscles along with nausea and decreased appetite then you should go for a medical check up.

Causes of hyperkalemia

Greater percentage of potassium is stored inside the cells. Due to certain medical complications, potassium can move out from the cells and occur in the bloodstream, thereby spiking up its concentration in the blood. This is when people suffer from hyperkalemia. Risk factors and health issues that cause hyperkalemia are:

  • Endocrine or hormonal problems Adrenal insufficiency
  • Overconsumption of salt containing potassium
  • People with type 1 diabetes are at risk
  • Kidney complications like renal failure, rejection of transplant, kidney stones, urinary tract obstruction
  • Internal bleeding, trauma to cells from burns, surgical injury, etc.
  • Side effects of NSAIDs, diuretics, ACE inhibitors, etc.

Diagnosis of hyperkalemia

Your doctor will examine the symptoms and take details of your medical history of any disease, trauma, etc. Let your doctor know if you are taking any medicines or supplements. 

You have to undergo blood test to reveal the potassium concentration. Apart from measuring potassium levels, your doctor will also measure record your blood, urea, nitrogen (BUN) value, creatinine and other electrolyte levels. Urine potassium and creatinine level would also be measured. EKG will be performed to note your cardiovascular activity and hyperkalemia.

Other diagnostic tests wouldbe recommended depending upon the medical condition of the patient.

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Treatment of hyperkalemia

The treatment depends on the degree of the hyperkalemia and the associated medical conditions that the patient might be suffering from. However, the goal of the treatment is to bring down potassium level in the blood.

Medicines

  • Diuretics might be prescribed if you have a kidney condition. The water pills help eliminate excess potassium through urination
  • Drugs for regulating adrenal function like epinephrine and albuterol
  • Cat ion-exchange resins like Kayexalate bind excess potassium to stomach gut which is then eliminated through bowels
  • Medicines to regulate heartbeat might also be prescribed as per ECG reports

Injections

Injections of sodium bicarbonate, insulin and calcium might be considered depending upon the requirement of the patient

Dialysis

In case of severe hyperkalemia haemodialysis is considered to remove excess potassium from blood

Your doctor will schedule your appointment after certain interval to note improvement in your health

Home care for hyperkalemia

Make sure you are following the instructions given by your doctor. Patients are usually advised low potassium diet which boosts the efficiency of medical treatment. To name a few, foods high in potassium include dark green vegetables, oranges, and potassium. Stick to the diet as planned by your doctor.

Written by: healthplus24.com team

Date last updated: January 07, 2015