Potassium is an electrolyte normally present inside the cells and is important for proper functioning of the heart, muscles and nervous system. A high level of potassium in the blood, also known as hyperkalemia, can be caused by numerous factors, and symptoms can be difficult to diagnose. A normal level of potassium for an adult ranges from 3.5 to 5.0 milli-equivalents per liter (mEq / L)
You may not experience any symptoms until potassium in your blood reaches a significant level. Basically, a high level of potassium in the blood can cause nausea, fatigue, paralysis, muscle weakness or tingling in the extremities and tongue. As the level continues to rise, it can cause the heart to slow down or become arrhythmic and, in the most extreme cases, actually stops. Too high levels of potassium can also cause confusion, shallow breathing, seizures or convulsions, irregular heartbeat, heavy feeling in the arms or legs, or feeling faint.
If this condition is not diagnosed right away it can have long term effects on the heart, kidneys, nerves and muscle function, leading to atherosclerosis, blood pressure problems, heart arrhythmias and digestive complications. Since the digestive system and kidneys is what the body uses to process potassium, this may exacerbate the problem.
One of the most common causes of an increased potassium level kidney function problems. It may also be caused by lupus nephritis, diabetes, Addison’s disease or tissue trauma. Some medicines can cause blood potassium levels to increase, because they interfere with the body’s ability to filter potassium from the blood. These include ACE inhibitors, NSAIDs, potassium-sparing diuretics and potassium supplements.
Treatment for a high level of potassium containing insulin, beta-agonists or sodium bicarbonate. These promote movement of potassium from the blood back into the cells. Diuretics can be provided to help the kidneys excrete potassium, and binding resin can help the digestive system with the exchange of potassium and sodium. Long-term treatment often involves dietary changes to reduce potassium intake.
A high potassium levels should be taken seriously, as it can cause the heart to stop if untreated for too long. This can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms do not necessarily appear again until the level is high enough to cause significant problems. Severe hyperkalemia is present when the level of potassium in the blood when 7.0 mEq / L, and has approximately 67 percent mortality. Doctor should be sought immediately if any of these primary symptoms experienced.