What Causes High Potassium Levels?

Potassium is an essential mineral vital to the proper functioning of the nerves and muscles in your body, including your heart. The normal levels of potassium in the body range from 3.6 to 5.2 millimoles per liter. Having too much potassium in your body, which is known as hyperkalemia and measuredat more than 7.0 mmol/L, is dangerous and needs immediate treatment. 

What Causes High Potassium Levels?

There are some reasons contributing to the high potassium level, Those issues can include the following possibilities:

1. Kidney Failure

One of the jobs of the kidneys is to get rid of extra potassium in the body. With kidney failure, your kidneys will not be able to complete this job, leading to buildup of potassium. When your kidneys do not work well, taking potassium supplements and other substances containing potassium, such as salt substitutes will raise the potassium level in your body, and cause dangerous situation.

2. Medicines

If you have problems with your kidneys or your body doesn’t process potassium correctly, taking certain medications makes it more difficult for the kidneys to get rid of potassium. In addition, certain drugs can cause increase of potassium. Medications that can affect potassium levels include:

  • Ÿ   Antibiotics like penicillin G and trimethoprim
  • Ÿ   Azole antifungal medications prescribed for some fungal and vaginal yeast infections
  • Ÿ   Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, ACE, used for treating high blood pressure
  • Ÿ   Angiotensin-receptor blockers, ARB, which are high blood pressure medications
  • Ÿ   Beta-blockers, also used to treat high blood pressure
  • Ÿ   Herbal supplements such as milkweed, lily of the valley, Hawthorne berries and Siberian        ginseng   
  • Ÿ   Heparin, which is used to help thin blood
  • Ÿ   Some NSAIDS
  • Ÿ   Potassium pills
  • Ÿ   Some diuretic medications

3. Other Causes

Potassium builds up in the bloodstream when it is released from the body’s cells. In terms of what causes high potassium levels, acidosis is also to be blamed, which is a build-up of acids. Acidosis is often caused by some injuries which release potassium from inside of the body’s cells to move to the fluid on the outside. These injuries may include:

  • Ÿ   Large portions of the body sustaining burns
  • Ÿ   Damage sustained to muscles and the body’s cells by trauma or addiction
  • Ÿ   Blood disorders causing the cells to erupt
  • Ÿ   Serious stomach or intestinal bleeding
  • Ÿ   Certain tumors

Other conditions associated with high potassium levels also include:

  • Ÿ   Being dehydrated
  • Ÿ   Having type 1 diabetes
  • Ÿ   Undergoing certain types of chemotherapy
  • Ÿ   Alcohol abuse

The Symptoms of High Potassium Levels

While you may not experience any symptoms if you have higher than normal levels of potassium in your blood, if the levels are high enough to cause symptoms, they will depend on how much of the mineral is present. These symptoms include:

  • Feeling weak or extremely tired
  • Feelings of tingling or numbness
  • Feeling nauseous or vomiting
  • Having trouble breathing
  • Experiencing pain in the chest area
  • An irregular heartbeat

The presence of high levels of potassium can lead to problems with your heart or paralysis in severe cases. Along with heart palpitations, your heart can stop beating and you can experience heart failure if the levels are extremely high. In addition, Hyperkalemia is able to cause cardiac arrthymias, or irregular heartbeats, and it often leads to ventricular fibrillation, a condition in which the lower heart chambers flutter rather than pump blood.

After finding out what causes high potassium levels, if you discover you are having symptoms, you need to see your doctor immediately, who may admit you to the hospital until your potassium levels drop again.

Treatments for High Potassium Levels

The treatments for high potassium involve getting rid of the excess potassium in your body so your levels normalize, which can be achieved both through home remedies, and some medical treatments if the condition is severe.

1.   Home Remedies

In cases when your high potassium levels are not caused by serious medical conditions, some simple home remedies can prove quite helpful.

Avoid foods high in potassium

Once you find out what causes high potassium levels, you should seek to reduce or eliminate foods, supplements and other ingredients containing potassium.

    • These foods are known to have high amounts of potassium in them: bananas, legumes, milk, processed baked goods, salmon and sweet potatoes.
    • Salt substitutes and sports drinks also have high levels of potassium in them. Look at the labels on foods, drinks and ingredients for potassium chloride and try to avoid using those products.
    • Getting more exercise and drinking more water on a daily basis can also help lower your potassium levels.

Try the right kind of herbs 

A natural way of healing your body is to use herbs for your ailments, such as horsetail, bearberry, and parsley. However, if you want to use an herbal remedy, stay away from dandelion, alfalfa and nettle as these herbs can increase your levels of potassium.

2.   Medical Treatment

  • Gluconate – This is a drug used to help treat high levels of potassium and it works by reducing the effects of potassium on the heart.
  • Diuretics – These are drugs prescribed to help you urinate more frequently, which will help to reduce high levels of potassium in your body. Some of the diuretics that may be used include loop, thiazide and potassium-sparing diuretics.
  • Resin – Since resin bonds with potassium, your doctor may have you take it orally so the excess potassium is passed through your body during bowel movements.
  • Hemodialysis – When high potassium levels are caused by kidney failure, you will be placed on a machine that helps to filter your blood. It will remove the waste from your blood, including excess potassium.

How Much Potassium Do You Need?

Along with understanding what causes high levels of potassium, you should make sure you only consume the daily recommended dose of potassium.

    • ŸFor adults who are over 19, pregnant women and young people from 14 to 18 years of age, they should consume about 4,700 milligrams of potassium each day.
    • ŸWomen who are nursing need about 5,100 mg.
    • ŸFor infants and children up to 13 years old, the amount of potassium they need will depend on their age and weight, but it can be anywhere from 400 to 3,800 mg.
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