There are a variety of causes of hyperkalemia, including certain types of medications (ACE inhibitors, aldosterone receptor blockers, potassium-sparing diuretics, and others), kidney disease, and too much potassium in food. Hyperkalemia can also be caused by taking potassium supplements or consuming too many salty or acidic foods. If you are at risk for hyperkalemia, your healthcare provider may recommend a kidney transplant to reverse the condition.
A high potassium level may also cause an abnormal ECG. In such cases, the healthcare provider may administer intravenous insulin to prevent an arrhythmia and stabilize the heart’s rhythm. Potassium binders are another treatment option. These medications bind to excess potassium in the intestines and pass through the poop. Potassium binders are available in oral and enema forms.
If hyperkalemia is suspected, a blood test is performed. The level of potassium in the blood is usually elevated and can lead to cardiac arrest and death. If treatment is not appropriate, the patient should continue to follow up with their nephrologist and dietitian. This interprofessional team should be available to answer any questions patients may have about their condition. The treatment for high potassium must be ongoing, as it can result in serious complications, including kidney failure.
Mild hyperkalemia is common and generally well tolerated, but the doctor should monitor the patient closely to ensure that the condition does not progress to severe hyperkalemia. Severe hyperkalemia can lead to cardiac arrest and death. If left untreated, this condition has a high mortality rate. The normal range for potassium levels in the blood is between 3.5 to 5.0 milliequivalents per liter.