An Inside Look at Hyperkalemia

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Potassium is a mineral your body needs. It usually gets into your body through foods you eat, medications, or IV infusions. Hyperkalemia happens when there's too much potassium in your bloodstream.

It's stored inside your nerve and muscle cells and helps these cells work like they should.

When there's more potassium in your body than your cells need, the excess gets filtered out by your kidneys and leaves your body in your urine.

Hyperkalemia often happens for two main reasons.

Your cells may be releasing more potassium than normal. This affects the delicate chemical balance inside and outside your cells.

Or your kidneys may not be removing enough potassium from your bloodstream.

Another underlying condition, like kidney disease or kidney failure, is likely the cause of hyperkalemia.

It could also happen because of medications you're taking.

Hyperkalemia makes it hard for your nerve and muscle cells to work like they should.

As a result, you may have muscle weakness, tiredness, paralysis, abnormal heart rhythms, chest pain, or nausea.

Many people don't have any symptoms at all, though.

Your doctor will order a blood test to see if you have hyperkalemia.

You may need to change your medications or get treatment for an underlying condition. In severe cases, you may need emergency medications or dialysis.

Hyperkalemia can be life-threatening. If you have symptoms, especially if you have kidney disease or are taking medications that raise your potassium level, call your doctor right away.