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High potassium level

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High potassium level is a problem in which the amount of potassium in the blood is higher than normal. The medical name of this condition is hyperkalemia.

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Causes
Potassium is needed for cells to function properly. You get potassium through food. The kidneys remove excess potassium in the urine to keep a proper balance of this mineral in the body.

If your kidneys are not working well, they may not be able to remove the proper amount of potassium. As a result, potassium can build up in the blood. This buildup can be due to:
Symptoms
There are often no symptoms with a high level of potassium. When symptoms do occur, they may include:
Exams and Tests
The doctor will perform a physical exam and ask about your symptoms.

Tests that may be ordered include: Your doctor will likely check your blood potassium level and do kidney blood tests on a regular basis if you:
Treatment
You will need emergency treatment if your potassium level is very high, or if you have danger signs, such as changes in an ECG.

Emergency treatment may include: Changes in your diet can help both prevent and treat high potassium levels. You may be asked to: Your doctor may make the following changes to your medicines: Follow your health care provider's directions when taking your medicines:
Alternative Names
Hyperkalemia; Potassium - high; High blood potassium

References
Seifter JL. Potassium disorders. In: Goldman L, Schafer, AI, eds. Cecil Medicine . 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 119.

Update Date: 11/7/2013
Brent Wisse, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Nutrition, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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