Often, a report of high blood potassium isn't true hyperkalemia. Instead it may be caused by the rupture of blood cells in the blood sample during or shortly after the blood draw. The ruptured cells leak their potassium into the sample. This falsely raises the amount of potassium in the blood sample, even though the potassium level in your body is actually normal. When this is suspected, a repeat blood sample is done.

The most common cause of genuinely high potassium (hyperkalemia) is related to your kidneys, such as:

  1. Acute kidney failure
  2. Chronic kidney disease

Other causes of hyperkalemia include:

  1. Addison's disease (adrenal failure)
  2. Alcoholism or heavy drug use that causes rhabdomyolysis, a breakdown of muscle fibers that results in the release of potassium into the bloodstream
  3. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
  4. Destruction of red blood cells due to severe injury or burns
  5. Excessive use of potassium supplements
  6. Type 1 diabetes

Causes shown here are commonly associated with this symptom. Work with your doctor or other health care professional for an accurate diagnosis.

Nov. 18, 2011