Hyperkalemia is a medical term used to define high potassium found in blood. Having too much potassium can be worse than not having enough. Potassium is important for the body because it helps with blood pressure. It also supports bone and muscle strength as well as cardiovascular health. Potassium can be taken through supplements or foods like soybeans, sweet potatoes, and avocados. The recommended amount each person should consume daily varies based on individual health. A good rule of thumb is to consume 3,500 – 4,700 mg of potassium each day. Continue reading to learn more about hyperkalemia.
Symptoms of hyperkalemia depend on how high the level of potassium is. If the potassium is just a bit too high, there may not be any symptoms. If potassium levels are high enough, you're likley to experience symptoms like fatigue, weakness, numbness or tingling, nausea, vomiting, trouble breathing, chest pain, and palpitations.
Kidneys are essential organs because they filter waste and excess fluid out of the body through urine. As a result, kidneys help regulate potassium levels, filtering out excess. When kidneys are failing or diseased they do not function properly, and potassium levels can begin to build. If experiencing kidney failure or disease, avoid foods high in potassium and limit dairy products.
Addison’s disease occurs when the adrenal glands above the kidneys do not produce an adequate amount of cortisol and aldosterone. These hormones are essential because they regulate the function of tissues and organs. Aldosterone controls the balance of blood potassium levels, and if too little aldosterone is produced, the body cannot regulate the amount of potassium in the blood.
Dehydration is often caused by excessive sweating, vomiting, and diarrhea. When the body loses enough fluids to become dehydrated, this changes the concentration of electrolytes, which are essential because they maintain metabolic processes. Potassium is an electrolyte, typically found inside cells. When the electrolyte concentration changes, potassium moves out of the cells into the blood.
Diabetes renders the body incapable of producing insulin, which is needed to control blood sugar levels. Without insulin, the body activates fat cells to release acids called ketones, which increase acidity levels in the blood. When the blood is high in acidity and sugar levels, potassium leaves the cells and moves into the blood, causing hyperkalemia.
High potassium can be very serious. Consult with a medical provider right away if you or anyone you know display symptoms, especially if you have a personal or family history of hyperkalemia. If the symptoms are severe, head to the emergency room; if your potassium levels are high enough, you will most likely be admitted to the hospital.
In early stages of hyperkalemia, the body may not experience symptoms. Doctors may look at personal or family history and current medications and may confirm the diagnosis through a blood or urine test. If you run a risk of high potassium, these tests should be done routinely.
There are several options for treating high potassium, including hemodialysis, calcium gluconate, diuretics, and resin. If hyperkalemia is a result of kidney failure, hemodialysis is the best option. The treatment essentially does the job of the kidneys, filtering and removing waste and excess potassium from the blood. Calcium gluconate reduces heart damage caused by high potassium levels. Diuretics increase urine production, enabling the release of excess potassium. A resin is a medication that links with potassium molecules and transports them out of the body through bowel movements.
High potassium is nothing to mess around with. If you experience symptoms, consult with a healthcare provider immediately and follow his or her instructions. There are a couple at-home remedies that may be helpful for reducing potassium levels. You should limit the amount of potassium you consume by cutting back on bananas, nuts, beans, milk, and beef. Other options are to buy salt substitutes low in potassium, increase water intake, and avoid herbs such as alfalfa and dandelion.
Hyperkalemia can be fatal without treatment. It leads to cardiac arrhythmias and changes in heart rhythms. The condition can also cause ventricular fibrillation, a condition where the lower part of the heart beats quickly but doesn't pump blood. If potassium levels are high enough, your heart can stop beating completely.
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