Hyperkalemia is the medical term that describes a potassium level in your blood that's higher than normal. Potassium is a nutrient that is critical to the function of nerve and muscle cells, including those in your heart.
Your blood potassium level is normally 3.6 to 5.2 millimoles per liter (mmol/L). Having a blood potassium level higher than 7.0 mmol/L can be dangerous and requires immediate treatment.
High potassium is usually found when your doctor has ordered blood tests to help diagnose a condition you're already experiencing or to monitor medications you're taking. It's usually not discovered by chance.
Talk to your doctor about what your results mean. You may need to change a medication that's affecting your potassium level, or you may need to treat another medical condition that's causing your high potassium level. Treatment of high potassium is often directed at the underlying cause. In some instances, you may need emergency medications or dialysis.
If you have symptoms of hyperkalemia and have reason to think your potassium level might be high, call your doctor immediately. Hyperkalemia is a serious and potentially life-threatening disorder. It can cause:
- Muscle fatigue
- Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias)
Nov. 18, 2011
- Laboratory reference values. Potassium values. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. July 2011.
- Pulmonary function, arterial blood gases and electrolyte studies. In: Fischbach FT, et al. A Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Wolters Kluwer Health Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2009:944.
- Mount DB. Clinical manifestations of hyperkalemia. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Aug. 17, 2011.
- Rose BD. Causes of hyperkalemia. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Aug. 17, 2011.
- Mount DB. Treatment and prevention of hyperkalemia. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Aug. 17, 2011.
- Wilkinson J (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Sept. 19, 2011.