Hyperkalemia is a disease where the potassium content in the blood is too high. Symptoms that result from hyperkalemia can be very complex, ranging from muscle fatigue, tingling to heart rhythm irregularities.
Potassium is a mineral that plays an important role in the body. Particularly in the maintenance of muscle, nerve, and heart function. Normally, the body regulates potassium levels by eliminating surplus potassium from the urine.
Type of hyperkalemia
Natural potassium levels in the blood are 3.5 to 5.0 mEq/L. A new individual is said to have hyperkalemia when the potassium level in the blood is higher than 5.0 mEq/L.
Hyperkalemia is classified into several categories depending on elevated levels of potassium in the blood, namely:
- Mild hyperkalemia, i.e. serum potassium levels in the blood 5,1 to 6,0 mEq/L
- Moderate hyperkalemia, i.e. serum potassium levels in the blood 6.1 to 7.0 mEq/L
- Extreme hyperkalemia, i.e. serum potassium levels above 7.0 mEq/L
Trigger and Risk Factors of Hyperkalemia
Hyperkalemia can be caused by various things, from health problems to side effects of drugs. The following are some of the factors that can cause an increase in potassium levels in the blood:
Impaired function of the kidney
Any disorder or condition that may cause reduced kidney function may result in hyperkalemia. The explanation is that one of the functions of the kidneys is to eliminate surplus potassium from the body. As a consequence, when kidney function is compromised, potassium levels in the body can rise.
Any disorders or illnesses that can induce compromised kidney function are as follows:
- Acute renal failure
- Chronic kidney failure
- Lupus nephritis
- Urinary tract diseases, such as urinary tract stones (urolithiasis)
- Rejection reactions from an organ transplant
Adrenal gland disease
The adrenal glands are small glands above the kidneys that contain cortisol and aldosterone. The hormone aldosterone serves to balance the level of sodium and fluid in the kidneys and excretes potassium in the urine. If the volume of the hormone aldosterone decreases, the amount of potassium in the blood increases.
As a consequence, adrenal conditions that cause reduced levels of the hormone aldosterone, such as Addison’s disease, may cause elevated levels of potassium in the blood.
Return of potassium to the bloodstream
Normally, more potassium is present in the body cells than in the body cells. Therefore, any condition that increases the release of potassium outside the body’s cells can induce hyperkalemia. These requirements shall include:
- Type 1 diabetes
- Hemolytic anemia
- Diabetic ketoacidosis
- Lysis tumor syndrome
- Operational action
- Blood donors
A variety of medications can decrease the body’s ability to excrete potassium through the urine. As a consequence, the potassium content in the blood is rising. These medications shall include:
- Potassium-sparing diuretics, such as spironolactone
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs ( NSAIDs ), such as ibuprofen and aspirin
- ACE inhibitors, such as captopril
- Angiotensin receptor blocker drugs (ARBs), such as candesartan
- BETA inhibitors, such as propanolol
- Potassium supplements
Symptoms of Hyperkalemia
Symptoms of hyperkalemia are dependent on elevated levels of potassium in the blood. In certain cases, there are no signs of hyperkalemia. However, if the potassium level in the blood increases high enough, there might be complaints in the form of:
- Weak or weak muscles
- Nausea and vomiting
- Tingling and numbness
- Chest pain
- Respiratory disorders
- Stop the heart that can cause death
When to see a doctor
Check with your doctor if you experience the above symptoms, especially if you have a disease or are taking drugs that can increase the risk of hyperkalemia.
Immediately see a doctor if you have been diagnosed with hyperkalemia and the symptoms above appear, especially if the symptoms are severe enough. You will be hospitalized in the hospital until the potassium level in the blood returns to normal.
The doctor will begin the examination by asking about symptoms, medical history, diet, and medications that the patient is currently taking. After that, the doctor will check the patient’s heart rate.
To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor will carry out supporting examinations, such as:
- Blood and urine sample tests, to check the potassium levels in the sample
- Electrocardiography (EKG), to detect heart rhythm disturbances that may occur in hyperkalemia patients
Treatment of hyperkalemia depends on the cause, severity, and overall condition of the patient. Patients with mild hypokalemia usually do not need to be hospitalized, especially if the EKG is normal and there are no comorbidities such as kidney failure.
Conversely, if the EKG shows abnormal results and the symptoms are severe enough, the patient needs to be hospitalized, so that the condition of his heart rhythm is monitored.
Some of the methods of treating hyperkalemia are:
- Insulin and glucose infusion, to pull potassium back into the body’s cells
- Calcium infusion, to protect the heart and muscles
- Infusion of sodium bicarbonate, to fight acidosis conditions and draw potassium back into body cells
- Hemodialysis or blood washing, to filter and remove excess potassium from the blood
- Administration of drugs, such as diuretics, calcium gluconate, albuterol, epinephrine, and resins, to lower blood potassium levels or relieve symptoms
There are several independent therapies that patients with mild hyperkalemia can do to reduce potassium levels in the blood. This therapy is also useful for patients with severe hypokalemia to speed up the healing process. Some of these therapies are:
- Eat foods low in potassium
- Drink lots of water to prevent dehydration
- Stopping medications that increase the risk of hypokalemia
Complications of Hyperkalemia
Hyperkalemia can cause arrhythmias or heart rhythm disturbances. This condition can lead to ventricular fibrillation, which causes the lower heart to beat fast but doesn’t pump blood.
Hyperkalemia that is not treated promptly can also lead to cardiac arrest, paralysis, and death.
Prevention of Hyperkalemia
To prevent hyperkalemia, avoid factors that can increase the risk of hypokalemia:
- Making efforts to reduce the risk of developing diseases or conditions that can cause hyperkalemia. For example not drink alcohol to reduce the risk of kidney problems.
- Avoid consuming foods high in potassium, such as bananas, potatoes, and nuts.
- Have your potassium levels checked regularly? If you are taking medications that increase your potassium levels or have a disease that increases your risk of hyperkalemia.