Hyperkalemia: What are the signs of potassium overdose?

9 October 2017
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9 October 2017, Comments: 0

Hyperkalemia is characterized by the rise in the levels of potassium in the body. Potassium is a vital electrolyte and mineral required for various bodily functions. It is responsible for regulating fluid balance in the body, maintain the pH level and normalize the blood pressure.

It also controls the heartbeat by facilitating the conduction of nerve impulses and muscle contractions. The right intake of potassium for adults is around 4,700 mg per day. Even though uncommon, the levels of potassium can exceed the normal limits in the body which results to hyperkalemia.

What are the causes?


In severe instances, hyperkalemia might result to respiratory failure or sagging paralysis in the legs and arms.

The usual root of hyperkalemia is kidney failure. Since the organ eliminate potassium, an impairment in its function causes the potassium levels to rise.

Other ailments such as rhabdomyolysis, Addison’s disease, metabolic acidosis, insulin deficiency or significant tissue or red blood cell damage can result to hyperkalemia.

Extensive use of potassium supplements, salt substitutes or potassium-sparing diuretics can also result to hyperkalemia. Several common drugs can also affect the level of potassium in the body. Determining the root of hyperkalemia is vital so that the right treatment can be started.

What are the signs of hyperkalemia?

The indications of hyperkalemia include:

  • Drop in the blood pressure
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramping
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability

An erratic heartbeat can arise if the nerves and muscles start to malfunction. Some experience a tingling sensation in the feet, hands and tongue.

In severe instances, hyperkalemia might result to respiratory failure or sagging paralysis in the legs and arms. If not promptly treated, hyperkalemia can cause lasting effects on the blood pressure, digestion, heart rhythm and kidney function. A doctor must be seen right away if the condition is suspected.


The main objective of treating hyperkalemia involves the stabilization of the heart rhythm and promoting the elimination of potassium from the bloodstream.

Sodium bicarbonate, calcium gluconate, insulin, diuretics or sorbitol are often administered. These drugs work by either moving potassium from the blood back into the cells or increasing the amount of potassium eliminated via the feces or urine.

In severe cases, dialysis is used to manage the condition. The serum potassium levels are closely monitored during treatment.

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