Hyperkalemia

What is hyperkalemia?

Hyperkalemia is a high level of potassium in your blood. Potassium helps control how your muscles, heart, and digestive system work.

What causes hyperkalemia?

  • Intense and prolonged exercise

  • Medical conditions, such as diabetes, HIV, tuberculosis, or kidney disease

  • Medicines, such as pain medicine and heart or blood pressure medicine

  • A diet that is high in potassium

  • Trauma, such as muscle injury, burns, or surgery

What are the signs and symptoms of hyperkalemia?

  • Muscle cramps or pain

  • Diarrhea

  • Abdominal pain

  • Numbness or weakness

How is hyperkalemia diagnosed?

  • An EKG test records your heart rhythm and how fast your heart beats. It is used to check for irregular heartbeats.

  • Blood tests are done to check your potassium level.

How is hyperkalemia treated?

  • Medicines will be given to remove potassium from your body. This will lower your potassium levels. This medicine may be given as a pill or an enema.

  • Dialysis may be needed if other treatments do not work. Dialysis uses a machine to remove waste products and toxins from your blood. Ask your caregiver for more information about dialysis.

How can I manage my symptoms?

Limit the amount of potassium you eat. Foods that are high in potassium include bananas, tomatoes, oranges, turkey, and milk. Orange juice, citrus juices, and tomato juice are also high in potassium. Do not use salt substitutes. You may need to meet with a dietitian to help plan the best meals for you.

When should I contact my caregiver?

  • You have nausea or are vomiting.

  • You have numbness or tingling in your arms or legs.

  • Your symptoms do not go away or get worse.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have trouble breathing.

  • You have an irregular heartbeat.

  • You have trouble controlling your muscles.

  • You are too tired or weak to stand up.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2013 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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