Skip to content

Information and Resources

Font Size
A
A
A

Hyperkalemia: Symptoms and Treatments

If you have hyperkalemia, you have too much potassium in your blood. The body needs a delicate balance of potassium to help the heart and other muscles work properly. But too much potassium in your blood can lead to dangerous, and possibly deadly, changes in heart rhythm.

Causes of Hyperkalemia

Hyperkalemia -- high potassium in your blood -- may occur if your kidneys do not work properly and cannot remove potassium from your body or if your body's cells release too much potassium.

Kidney disease is the most common cause of hyperkalemia. Your kidneys help control the balance of potassium in your body. If they do not work properly, they cannot filter extra potassium from the blood or remove it from the body. A hormone called aldosterone tells the kidneys when to remove potassium -- as well as sodium. Diseases that decrease the production of this hormone, such as Addison's disease, can lead to hyperkalemia.

Excess potassium in the diet can also contribute to increased levels in your blood, especially if there is an issue with kidney function. Salt substitutes typically contain high amounts of potassium. Foods such as melons, orange juice, and bananas are rich in potassium too.

Some health problems interfere with how potassium moves out of the body's cells. Sometimes, cells release too much potassium. Releasing too much potassium can result from:

  • Breakdown of red blood cells, called hemolysis
  • Breakdown of muscle tissue, called rhabdomyolysis
  • Burns, trauma, or other tissue injury
  • Uncontrolled diabetes

Conditions that can affect the kidney's ability to remove potassium from the body include:

Drug-Induced Hyperkalemia

Certain medications can also make it harder for the kidneys to remove potassium. This is particularly true if you have kidney disease or problems with the way your body handles potassium. Also, some drugs may increase the amount of potassium in the body.

Medications that have been linked to hyperkalemia include:

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

sore foot
3 warning signs.
acupuncture needle on shoulder
10 tips to look and feel good.
Epinephrine Injection using Auto-Injector Syringe
Life-threatening triggers.
disciplining a boy
Types, symptoms, causes.
psoriasis
What it looks like.
checking blood sugar
Symptoms and treatment.
man behind computer screen
10 possible causes.
Woman with itchy watery eyes
Common triggers.
man screaming
Making sense of symptoms.
human liver
What puts you at risk?
caregiver with parent
10 tips for daily life.
two male hands
Understanding RA.

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.