Potassium is a mineral that is needed to help the heart, kidneys, and other organs function. Hyperkalemia is higher than normal levels of potassium in your blood.
Potassium is needed to regulate water and mineral balance throughout the body. High levels can disturb the balance of other minerals in the body and cause muscle problems throughout the body. It can also affect the heart’s ability to function properly.


Excess potassium is normally taken out of the blood through the kidneys. Kidney problems or conditions that affect the kidneys’ ability to filter can cause excess potassium in the blood.
Cancer treatments can also cause hyperkalemia as cells are destroyed and potassium moves into the blood stream.
Genetic disorders may also increase your risk of hyperkalemia.
Kidney Damage
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors

Factors that may interfere with kidney function and lead to hyperkalemia include:
Factors that may increase your intake of potassium include:
  • Excess potassium supplements
  • Total parenteral nutrition
  • A diet that is high in potassium
Certain medication may increase potassium levels:
  • ACE inhibitors
  • Potassium sparing diuretics
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Beta-blockers
Other factors that may increase potassium levels:
  • Low blood volume from dehydration
  • Any illness that increases the acid in the blood, such as diabetic ketoacidosis
  • Destruction of any tissue such as muscle or tumor cells
  • Very high blood glucose


Hyperkalemia may not have any symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they may include:


You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Bodily fluids will be tested to determine potassium levels. This can be done with:
  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
An electrocardiogram (EKG) will be done to see if the potassium is affecting your heart.


Treatment is focused on decreasing blood potassium levels. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:

Supplements and Medications

Because hyperkalemia can result in irregular heartbeat, you may be given calcium to protect your heart muscles from damage.
Your doctor may also advise medications to lower the potassium in your blood or body. These may include insulin and/or beta agonist therapy, sodium polystyrene sulfonate, or certain diuretics.
Your current medications may be changed if they are the cause of your hyperkalemia.

Other Supportive Steps

Other treatment specific to the cause include:
  • Your doctor may advise you to limit your intake of potassium. You may be referred to a dietitian.
  • Dialysis may be needed in severe cases of hyperkalemia due to kidney failure. Dialysis can take over the job of the kidneys and filter excess potassium from the blood.


To help reduce your chance of hyperkalemia, manage risk factors and/or follow treatment plans for chronic conditions.


American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians


Health Canada
The Canadian Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism


Hollander-Rodriguez J, Calvert J. Hyperkalemia. Am Fam Physician. 2006;73(2):283-290.
Hyperkalemia. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115641/Hyperkalemia. Updated June 13, 2016. Accessed October 3, 2016.
Hyperkalaemia. Patient UK website. Available at: http://patient.info/doctor/hyperkalaemia. Updated November 12, 2013. Accessed February 17, 2015.
Potassium and the diet. Colorado State University website. Available at: http://extension.colostate.edu/docs/pubs/foodnut/09355.pdf. Updated August 5, 2014. Accessed February 17, 2015.

Revision Information

Health Library Search

Only show results from the selected categories.

1 Dehydration condition

Dehydration results from excessive loss or not enough replacement of fluids from the body....

2 Hypokalemia condition

Potassium is a mineral that is needed to help the heart, kidneys, and other organs function. Hypokalemia is lower than normal levels of potassium in your blood. All cell...

Hypovolemia is a low level of fluid in the body. Lower levels of blood make it difficult to get nutrients and oxygen to the entire body. Hypovolemia will affect the entir...

Hypernatremia is when there is too much sodium in the body. It may be serious and requires care from your doctor....

Hyponatremia is a potentially serious condition in which the level of sodium in the blood is too low. An imbalance is created when there is too little sodium for the amou...

11 Symptoms of Heart Failure condition indepth
13 Screening for Heart Failure condition indepth
16 Medications for Heart Failure condition indepth
19 Diagnosis of Heart Failure condition indepth
20 Heart Failure condition

With heart failure, the heart is unable to pump the right amount of blood throughout the body. This causes blood to back up in the veins. Depending on which part of the h...