What does too much potassium in your system cause?

Written by karen hellesvig-gaskell
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High potassium levels in the body ("hyperkalemia") are most often due to the weakening of kidney function or persistent kidney failure. It is the kidneys' job to release potassium into your urine. In some cases, hyperkalemia can simply be a matter taking more potassium supplements than your body needs. Too much potassium can wreak havoc on your system, and in severe cases it can be life-threatening.

The Body Needs Potassium

A nutritional diet normally supplies adequate levels of potassium for good health. When not enough potassium gets into the body, it may result in moodiness, upset stomach, weakened muscles, and even an irregular heartbeat.

Kidneys Control Potassium Levels

Since your body relies on your kidneys to remove any surplus of potassium, most people who suffer from hyperkalemia have some type of kidney-related disorder.

How Your Body Responds to Excess Potassium

When your body identifies higher than normal levels of potassium in the bloodstream, it may react with a slowing or weakening of the pulse, nausea, or an irregular heartbeat. In many cases, the disorder is silent and there are no symptoms present to indicate hyperkalemia.

Treating Hyperkalemia

If potassium levels are extremely high or if you are experiencing acute symptoms, you will need to seek immediate medical assistance. Hyperkalemia may be treated with diuretic tablets to reduce potassium levels.

Kidney Dialysis

In more severe cases, such as when kidney function is weakened, dialysis may be considered to decrease potassium levels .

Intravenous Treatments

An intravenous (IV) dose of calcium may be used to offset any effects the condition may have on your heart and muscles. Sometimes an IV of glucose and insulin are given to temporarily alleviate symptoms while the cause of the hyperkalemia is being addressed.

Possible Complications

In rare cases, hyperkalemia may cause arhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms), heart failure, or neuromuscular problems (abnormalities in nerve and muscle).

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