Managing high potassium (hyperkalemia)

Potassium is a mineral found in many of the foods you eat. It plays a role in keeping your heartbeat regular and your muscles working right. High potassium (also called hyperkalemia) is a medical problem in which you have too much potassium in your blood. When kidneys do not work as well as they should, the amount of potassium in the blood can increase. Too much potassium in your blood can be dangerous and can cause an irregular heartbeat or a heart attack.
At first, many people with high potassium have few or no symptoms. Early symptoms can include muscles that are weak numb or in pain, tingling, shortness of breath, nausea, or other unusual feelings.
Very high levels of potassium can lead to more serious symptoms and require immediate medical attention, and can include nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath, a heavier or irregular heartbeat, or chest pain. Very high potassium can still be dangerous, even if there are no symptoms.
Speak to a clinician if you feel any of these symptoms and ask about getting checked for high potassium.
A diet that is too high in potassium can raise potassium levels in your body. Many other things can also cause high potassium, including certain drugs and other diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. If you have If you have high potassium, one or more of the following may be suggested by a clinician:
  • A low-potassium diet. A dietitian can help you create a meal plan that is low in potassium
  • Possible changes in your medicines might be needed (determined by your clinician)
  • Managing other conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and CKD
Certain medicines might also be used to help remove excess potassium from the body. These can include diuretics (water pills) or potassium binders. Your healthcare team will determine the right treatment and medication for you.
The following infographic contains more information on the dangers of high potassium.