Hyperkalemia (cont.)

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Potassium supplements, salt substitutes that contain potassium and other medications can cause hyperkalemia.

In normal individuals, healthy kidneys can adapt to excessive oral intake of potassium by increasing urine excretion of potassium, thus preventing the development of hyperkalemia. However, taking in too much potassium (either through foods, supplements, or salt substitutes containing potassium) can cause hyperkalemia if there is kidney dysfunction or if the patient is taking medications that decrease urine potassium excretion such as ACE inhibitors and potassium-sparing diuretics.

Examples of medications that decrease urine potassium excretion include:

Even though mild hyperkalemia is common with these medications, severe hyperkalemia usually do not occur unless these medications are given to patients with kidney dysfunction.

How is hyperkalemia diagnosed?

Blood is withdrawn from a vein (like other blood tests). The potassium concentration of the blood is determined in the laboratory. If hyperkalemia is suspected, an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is often performed, since the ECG may show changes typical for hyperkalemia in moderate to severe cases. The ECG will also be able to identify cardiac arrhythmias that result from hyperkalemia.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/3/2015

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