Understand The Complications Of Hyperkalemia – Causes & Treatment

Hyperkalemia is a medical condition that is characterized by an increased level of potassium in your blood. Potassium is an essential mineral that plays an important role in numerous bodily processes. But it must be present in the right quantity to avoid any complications in the body.

The upper limit of normal conditions is 5.0 mEq/L to 5.5 mEq/L, which can cause mild effects, but above 6 mEq/L to 7 mEq/L can cause chronic hyperkalemia, which is life-threatening, too. In this article, we have discussed all the complications and causes of hyperkalemia.

Complications Of Hyperkalemia

1] Cardiac Arrhythmias

Cardiac Arrhythmias is the most serious complication that may cause abnormal heart rhythms. High levels of potassium can disrupt the impulse and lead to life-threatening situations.

2] Muscle Weakness

Elevated potassium may also affect the normal functioning of the muscles, which can lead to weakness, twitching, and even paralysis. This may also impact voluntary and involuntary muscles and affect the heart and respiratory system.

Muscle Weakness

3] Nausea And Vomiting

In the case of hyperkalemia, gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea and vomiting may also occur. Further, high potassium levels may also contribute to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

4] Tingling Or Numbness

Patients suffering from hyperkalemia may also experience tingling or numbness, a condition called paresthesia. In such cases, the high potassium level affects nerves, and pronto sends extra signals to the brain. 

5] Respiratory Distress

Severe hyperkalemia can also lead to respiratory weakness called respiratory distress. In this condition, the patients may experience difficulty in breathing.

6] Kidney Function Impairment

Hyperkalemia can also exacerbate various kidney problems. It may create a dangerous cycle where impaired kidney function can increase potassium levels in the blood.

Causes Of Hyperkalemia

1] Kidney Dysfunction

The kidneys are meant to filter access potassium from the bloodstream and extract it through the urine. Hyperkalemia can cause impaired function, which may cause various kidney-related diseases that can turn chronic.

2] Medication

Potassium imbalance may also impact various medications. These procedures can be potassium-sparing diuretics and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE).

3] Diet

patients suffering from hyperkalemia also need to follow a strict diet to maintain their potassium levels. Consuming potassium-rich food like bananas, oranges, and spinach can lead to elevate the level.

4] Acut Injury Or Burn

Trauma or severe burns can release large amounts of potassium from damaged cells in the bloodstream. It may increase the level of potassium in the blood and may cause various complications.

5] Metabolic Disorder

Conditions like Addison’s disease may also cause severe hyperkalemia in patients. Such metabolic disorders may affect hormonal production in the adrenal glands, which may lead to chronic situations.

6] Dehydration

The complication of hyperkalemia can also increase due to dehydration. An inadequate fluid in the body can cause potassium concentrations to rise in the blood.

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Symptoms Of Hyperkalemia

Hyperkalemia can develop for various reasons, and it often occurs when the body has difficulty regulating potassium levels. The symptoms of high potassium levels can vary on various conditions that can be identified due to the below experiences. 

  • Irregular heartbeat or palpitations
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Experiencing fatigue
  • Chest pain

It is also important to note that in some cases, hyperkalemia may not present with these symptoms until the potassium level becomes dangerously high. Therefore, it is essential to regularly monitor potassium levels, especially for those with kidney diseases or taking some kind of medications that affect potassium balance.

Diagnosis And Treatment Of Hyperkalemia

  • Reduce potassium-rich food from the diet.
  • Adjust or discontinue the medications that contribute to high potassium levels.
  • Hemodialysis is necessary to rapidly lower potassium levels in severe cases.
  • Administrating proper calcium gluconate to stabilize the heart’s electrical activity in emergency situations.

Eliminating Hyperkalemia

Hyperkalemia can have serious consequences, particularly when it is left untreated. So, it is important to understand the complications, symptoms, and causes for early detection of high potassium levels and treat it well. Besides this, it is also essential to take some precautions in managing underlying conditions like kidney diseases, following a proper diet, and closely monitoring potassium levels.

By addressing the potential cause, the individual can reduce the risk of threatening complications of hyperkalemia. If you suspect such conditions, seek immediate medical attention to prevent severe health consequences.

About the Author

Nicole Carter is a dedicated and passionate nutritionist, committed to helping individuals achieve their health and wellness goals through the power of proper nutrition. With a Bachelor's degree in Nutritional Science and years of practical experience.

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