What is Hyperkalemia

Hyperkalemia is a condition characterized by elevated levels of potassium in the body. The normal potassium levels are usually 3.5-5.0 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L). if the level of potassium is higher than this, you are said to have  Hyperkalemia. The condition is categorized according to the amount of potassium in blood. Levels of potassium between  5.1 mEq/L to 6.0 mEq/L is categorized as mild Hyperkalemia, while 6.1 mEq/L to 7.0 mEq/L is categorized as moderate Hyperkalemia, while a level above 7 mEq/L is known as severe Hyperkalemia. The condition is quite common because it is diagnosed in about 7% -10% of people in especially Caucasian dominated countries. More than 60% of the people diagnosed with the condition die of heart attack. This is because the high levels of potassium predispose a person to heart attack.

How Hyperkalemia affects the body

Potassium is one of the most important nutrients for the normal functioning of the heart, muscles and other parts of the body. However, decrease or increase of potassium leads to abnormal functions of the body. For example, there is abnormal heart rhythm and abnormal muscle movement. This is dangerous because the parts of the body especially the heart follow a designated pattern.  There is a change in electrical activity of the heart and nerve impulse transmission within the body.

Symptoms of Hyperkalemia

  • Nausea
  • Muscle paralysis
  • Fatigue
  • Tingling sensations
  • Slow heart beats
  • Weak pulse

What causes Hyperkalemia?

The main cause of this condition is associated with failure of potassium excretion from the body. The organ responsible for this is kidney. Therefore, whenever kidney function is affected, there are chances that Hyperkalemia will result. Some of the conditions that can affect the function of the kidney are acute kidney failure, chronic kidney failure, lupus nephritis, rejection of kidney transplant and obstructive uropathy. Malfunction of the hormone aldosterone which is responsible for excretion of potassium can also lead to this condition.  The condition acidosis and body trauma can make the cells to release potassium increasing the levels of potassium in the blood. Traumatic conditions that can cause this include burns, tumors, traumatic surgery and traumatic injury. Taking a lot of potassium can also lead to the condition especially if the function of the kidney is wanting.

Diagnosis and treatment of Hyperkalemia

Diagnosis of the condition involves drawing blood from the patient and measuring the concentration of potassium. If the levels of potassium are above the normal levels, electrocardiogram is performed to determine whether the condition is mild, moderate or severe. Medication and treatment is given depending on the categorization of the condition. This involves administration of drugs that lower the level of potassium in the body. Diuretic hormone may be administered to improve potassium excretion from the body.