885068 Health Library | Health and Wellness | Wellmont Health System
  • Hyperkalemia


    Potassium is a mineral that is needed to help the heart, kidneys, and other organs function. Hyperkalemia is higher than normal levels of potassium in your blood.
    Potassium is needed to regulate water and mineral balance throughout the body. High levels can disturb the balance of other minerals in the body and cause muscle problems throughout the body. It can also affect the heart’s ability to function properly.


    Excess potassium is normally taken out of the blood through the kidneys. Kidney problems or conditions that affect the kidneys’ ability to filter can cause excess potassium in the blood.
    Cancer treatments can also cause hyperkalemia as cells are destroyed and potassium moves into the blood stream.
    Genetic disorders may also increase your risk of hyperkalemia.

    Risk Factors

    Factors that may interfere with kidney function and lead to hyperkalemia include:
    Kidney Damage
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
    Factors that may increase your intake of potassium include:
    • Excess potassium supplements
    • Total parenteral nutrition
    • A diet that is high in potassium
    Certain medication may increase potassium levels:
    • ACE inhibitors
    • Potassium sparing diuretics
    • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
    • Beta blockers


    Hyperkalemia may not have any symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they may include:
    • Tiredness
    • Muscle weakness or paralysis
    • Irregular heartbeat
    • Constipation
    • Shortness of breath
    • Chest pain


    You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
    Bodily fluids will be tested to determine potassium levels. This can be done with:
    • Blood tests
    • Urine tests
    An EKG will be done to see if the potassium is affecting your heart.


    Treatment is focused on decreasing blood potassium levels. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:

    Supplements and Medications

    Because hyperkalemia can result in irregular heartbeat, you may be given calcium to protect your heart muscles from damage.
    Your doctor may also advise medications to lower the potassium in your body. These may include insulin and/or beta agonist therapy, sodium polystyrene sulfonate, or certain diuretics.
    Your current medications may be changed if they are the cause of your hyperkalemia.

    Other Supportive Steps

    Other treatment specific to the cause include:
    • Your doctor may advise you to limit your intake of potassium. You may be referred to a dietitian.
    • Dialysis may be needed in severe cases of hyperkalemia due to kidney failure. Dialysis can take over the job of the kidneys and filter excess potassium from the blood.


    To help reduce your chance of getting hyperkalemia, manage risk factors such as diabetes.


    American Academy of Family Physicians http://www.aafp.org

    American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists http://www.aace.com


    The Canadian Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism http://www.endo-metab.ca

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca


    Hollander-Rodriguez J, Calvert J. Hyperkalemia. Am Fam Physician. 2006 Jan 15;73(2):283-290.

    Hyperkalemia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 14, 2013. Accessed January 8, 2014.

    Hyperkalaemia. Patient UK website. Available at: http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/hyperkalaemia. Updated November 12, 2013. Accessed January 8, 2014.

    Potassium and the diet. Colorado State University website. Available at: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09355.html. Published March 2013. Accessed January 10, 2014.

    Revision Information

  • Join WellZones today.

    Make a Change For LifeLearn more

    Wellmont LiveWell is creating a new tradition of wellness in the mountains by providing individuals with tools and encouragement to live healthier lifestyles.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease early and prevent heart attacks with HeartSHAPE® - a painless, non-invasive test that takes pictures of your heart to scan for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.