Hyperkalemia (elevated potassium)

Chest | Endocrinology and Metabolism | Hyperkalemia (elevated potassium) (Disease)


Hyperlipidemia is an increase in the amount of fat (such as cholesterol and triglycerides) in the blood. These increases can lead to heart disease and pancreatitis.

There are often no symptoms with high levels of potassium. Symptoms that may occur include: Nausea; Slow, weak, or irregular pulse; Sudden collapse, when the heartbeat gets too slow or even stops.

Causes and Risk factors

Certain medicines may cause potassium levels to build up because of their affect on the kidneys, including water pills (diuretics) and blood pressure medicines.

Any time potassium is released from the cells, it may build up in body fluids, including the bloodstream. Acidosis leads to the movement of potassium from inside the cells to the fluid outside the cells. Such injury includes: Burns over large areas of the body; Damage to muscle and other cells from drugs, alcohol abuse, coma, surgery, injury, or certain infections; Disorders that cause blood cells to burst (hemolytic anemia); Severe bleeding from the stomach or intestines; Tumors; Addisons disease is a disorder that causes an increase in total potassium.

Some protease inhibitors (PIs) can raise blood lipid (fat) levels. Some PIs, such as Norvir, are more likely to cause hyperlipidemia than other PIs. Sustiva is a non-protease inhibitor drug that can also raise blood lipid levels. Other factors can increase your risk of developing hyperlipidemia. Risks you can control include your alcohol intake, physical activity, and diet. Other risks include hypothyroidism, diabetes, and genetic factors. Oral contraceptives (birth control pills). The kidneys normally remove excess potassium from the body. High potassium levels are more likely to occur when the kidneys are not working properly and are less able to get rid of potassium.

Diagnosis and Treatment

An ECG may show dangerous and abnormal rhythms such as: Heart block, when the electrical impulse through the heart gets slower or stops; Slower than normal heartbeat; Ventricular tachycardia or fibrillation.

If your kidneys are not working well enough, taking extra potassium (for example from using salt substitutes that contain potassium or taking potassium supplements prescribed by your health care provider) could lead to problems.

Your doctor should check your serum potassium and do kidney blood tests on a regular basis if you: Are taking ACE inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers, spironolactone, amiloride, or triamterene; Have been prescribed extra potassium; Have chronic kidney disease; Use salt substitutes. ...

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