Too Much Potassium in Blood

Too much potassium in blood is one of those medical conditions which may progress into life-threatening conditions in the affected person...
The medical term for the condition of too much potassium in blood is 'hyperkalemia'. 3.6 to 4.8 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L) happens to be the normal reading for potassium levels in bloo. However, due to certain factors, there may be an upsurge in this level and the reading may get way higher than even 6.0 mEq/L. This is when, hyperkalemia strikes and the affected person requires immediate medical help, to avoid fatal situations.

What Does Abnormally High Level of Potassium in Blood Mean?

The condition of hyperkalemia may mean the development of several ailments in the body which are manifesting through it. Kidneys do their normal job of eliminating excess potassium in the urine. However, with the development of any kind of kidney disease, this process goes for a toss and one of the complications is too much potassium in blood.

Diabetes is another common high potassium in blood cause. This disorder reduces the efficiency of the kidneys. This in turn, may cause excess of potassium in the blood. Then comes the condition of malfunctioning adrenal glands. The hormone that is secreted by these glands, aid the kidneys to eliminate the excess potassium in the blood. So if the hormone production is disrupted, hyperkalemia may set in.

Other causes of high potassium in blood are the usage of certain medications, such as those which are recommended for treating high blood pressure, water pills, etc. Excessive use of potassium supplements, may also cause the same condition.

If the body tissues or cells are damaged due to trauma, surgery, etc., they cause a high release of potassium into the blood, leading to hyperkalemia. There are some cases, where a seemingly condition of too much potassium in blood does not really turn out to be so. This is because, doctors have realized that potassium levels in the blood may rise during or shortly after drawing a sample of blood in a blood test. What happens is, when the red blood cells get ruptured, they release potassium in the sample. This may raise the possibility of hyperkalemia, which actually, isn't the case. So this is a condition of false hyperkalemia. And because this kind of condition takes place, repeat tests are performed for confirmation.


In most people, a mild increase in the potassium levels, does not exhibit any kind of symptoms. Which means, the effects of too much potassium in blood, aren't visible. At many times, some patients come up with symptoms which may be considered to be vague and not specific. These might include:
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Weakness of muscles, which may make the affected person go immobilize
  • Feeling tingling sensations in different parts of the body
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Weak pulse
  • Heart stoppage
  • Paralysis
Treating Hyperkalemia

The treatment of high potassium levels in blood is done after the patient undergoes some blood tests. And if the condition is suspected, the patient undergoes an ECG test, for the final diagnosis. This test is also helpful in revealing any kind of heart complications that might have resulted from hyperkalemia.

Mild cases do not require hospitalization, but severe cases do. The treatment plan that is followed includes a low potassium diet, stoppage of medication that may increase potassium level, administration of glucose and insulin intravenously, and use of certain medications which help in driving potassium back to the cells instead of lurking in the blood. Some patients may have to opt for dialysis, if their condition hasn't responded to other treatment methods.

Prevention of too much potassium in blood involves measures which would help the patient to keep a check on high potassium fruits and vegetables. This is more important for those who are suffering from any kind of kidney disease. Apart from these, routing blood tests are also a must, as it helps to deal with the condition the moment it strikes.
By Rajib Singha
Published: 11/17/2010
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