Hyperkalemia is the term for when the potassium levels in the blood are too high. Hypokalemia is the term for when the levels are too low.
Sudden or severe hyperkalemia and hypokalemia are both life-threatening conditions that require immediate medical care. If you have symptoms of either, call 911 or go to the emergency room.
High Potassium (Hyperkalemia)
Limit foods that are high in potassium
Ask your healthcare provider or dietitian how much potassium is right for you. Your renal dietitian can also help you plan your diet, so you are getting the right amount of potassium. Eating too much can be harmful but eating too little can cause problems too. The Potassium in Your Diet AtoZ page can help you identify foods that are high in potassium and how to switch to lower potassium choices.
Avoid salt substitutes
Add a medication to help your body avoid holding on to extra potassium.
- Water pills (diuretics)– these help your body get rid of extra potassium. They work by increasing the amount of potassium your body removes in the urine.
- Potassium binders – these help lower the amount of potassium your body absorbs from food. These often come in the form of a powder. They need to be mixed with a small amount of water and taken with food. When swallowed, they “bind” to the extra potassium in your intestine and help to remove it. You must follow the instructions carefully when taking potassium binders. For example, potassium binders may interfere with how other drugs work if you take them at the same time. Potassium binders have not yet been approved for use in children.
Adjust or remove any medications that may be contributing to your high potassium levels.
Adjust your dialysis settings to help remove some of the extra potassium during a session
Low Potassium (Hypokalemia)
Eat more foods that are high in potassium or more servings of low-potassium foods.
The most common way to treat low potassium is to increase the amount of potassium you are already getting each day. The Potassium in Your Diet AtoZ page can help you identify some of the most common foods that are high in potassium and which ones have less.
Add a prescription potassium supplement
Adjust or remove any medications that may be contributing to your low potassium levels.
Adjust your dialysis settings to help remove less potassium during a session
Follow your treatment plan carefully, especially if you have diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, or other chronic conditions. Following your treatment plan can help you keep your potassium levels in the goal range. If you are on dialysis, be sure to get all the treatments or exchanges prescribed to you.
This content is provided for informational use only and is not intended as medical advice or as a substitute for the medical advice of a healthcare professional.