Treatments for High Blood Potassium (Hyperkalemia)

Too much potassium in your blood, a condition called hyperkalemia, can happen suddenly or because of an ongoing condition like kidney disease. But hyperkalemia can affect your heart and other parts of your body, so it’s important to treat it.

Emergency Treatments

These medications include:

They start working in minutes by shifting potassium out of the blood and into cells.

People with very high blood potassium levels may also need dialysis, which uses a special machine to filter the potassium from your blood.

Maintenance Medications

Even if hyperkalemia isn’t a crisis, you still need to get your potassium levels down.

Some medications lower potassium slowly, including:

  • Water pills (diuretics), which rid the body of extra fluids and remove potassium through urine
  • Sodium bicarbonate, which temporarily shifts potassium into body cells
  • Albuterol, which raises blood insulin levels and shifts potassium into body cells
  • Sodium polystyrene sulfonate (Kayexalate), which removes potassium through your intestines before it’s absorbed
  • Patiromer (Veltassa), which binds to potassium in the intestines
  • Sodium zirconium cyclosilicate (Lokelma), which binds to potassium in the intestines

Adjusting Other Medications, Diet

Your doctor will look at whether you need to stop taking other medications in order to lower your blood potassium levels, or adjust how much you take. That happens because these drugs contribute to higher potassium.

These medications include:

Too much potassium in foods can also contribute to higher levels in your blood if your kidneys don’t work well. So your doctor will ask you about what you eat and drink, and then give you advice on what things you may need to cut back on because they have a lot of potassium, like salt substitutes, bananas, potatoes, melons, citrus juice, and avocados.

Dialysis Treatments

Your kidneys help control the balance of potassium in your body, and if they don’t work properly they can’t do that important job. So you might need dialysis to treat your kidney disease -- which also treats hyperkalemia.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on January 30, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

Cleveland Clinic: “Hyperkalemia (High Blood Potassium).”

Medscape: “Hyperkalemia in Emergency Medicine.”

Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine: “Diagnosis and Treatment of Hyperkalemia.”

U.S. Pharmacist: “Updated Treatment Options in the Management of Hyperkalemia.”

The New England Journal of Medicine: “Sodium Zirconium Cyclosilicate in Hyperkalemia.”

Vascular Risk Health Management: “Blocking the RAAS at Different Levels.”

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