What’s the Best Treatment for High Potassium?

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Potassium is a mineral that your body needs to function. Your kidneys usually keep your potassium balanced in a healthy range. But sometimes it can get too high. If you have high potassium, you may be wondering how to flush excess potassium from your body. 

First things first: Never try to control your potassium levels on your own. It’s important to talk with your doctor if you have any questions about your potassium level. Your doctor can check your potassium with a simple blood test. Then you can work together to get your potassium back in a healthy range. 

What Causes High Potassium?

One common cause of high potassium (also called hyperkalemia) is chronic kidney disease (CKD). The link between potassium and CKD is that the kidneys control how much potassium you flush out or keep. So if your kidneys aren’t working well, they may not be able to control your potassium level.

You may also have high potassium if you have end-stage kidney disease or if you’re on dialysis therapy (a treatment for kidney problems). If you have any of these kidney problems, your doctor may check your potassium levels regularly. Then you can work with your doctor and a nutritionist to keep your potassium levels under control.

Other possible causes of high potassium include:

  • Traumatic injury
  • Sepsis (a severe type of infection)
  • Exercising too much
  • Dehydration
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis (a severe diabetes complication)
  • Cancer or chemotherapy treatment
  • Certain types of anemia

It’s also common for people who are hospitalized to have high potassium. In this case, your doctors at the hospital will take steps to keep your potassium levels under control.

What Are the Effects of Excess Potassium?

Potassium is measured in mmol/L (millimoles of potassium per liter of blood), and a normal range is between 3.5 to 5.0 mmol/L. Usually, if your potassium is only slightly high (5.0 to 5.5 mmol/L), you won’t have any symptoms. 

If your potassium gets very high (6.5 to 7.0 mmol/L), you’re more likely to have symptoms like:

  • Weakness
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Decreased reflexes
  • Irregular heartbeat

In severe cases, high potassium can also cause paralysis or heart attack. That’s why it’s important to work with your doctor to keep your potassium in a healthy range.

What Are Safe Ways to Flush Out Excess Potassium?

If you’re concerned about your potassium level, talk with your doctor to make a treatment plan that’s right for you. This might include diet changes or medicines — usually diuretics or potassium binders. Learn about some of the main treatments for high potassium.

How to Lower Potassium Through Diet Changes

You get potassium from foods you eat. So your doctor may recommend a low potassium diet to treat CKD or other kidney problems. And this means limiting foods that are high in potassium, including:

  • Certain veggies like spinach, lima beans, broccoli and beets
  • Certain fruits like avocados, mangoes, oranges and bananas

Unfortunately, many of the foods that are highest in potassium are healthy foods. So you’ll need to work with your doctor to make sure you still have a balanced diet — and that you’re getting all the other nutrients you need.

How to Safely Use Diuretics

Diuretics are medicines that help your body remove extra potassium through your urine. Your doctor may prescribe these medicines for you. Common diuretic medicines include Lasix, Demadex and Bumex. 

Make sure to follow your doctor’s instructions and the instructions on the medicine package. You can take diuretics as a daily pill, usually without food. If you’re in the hospital for treatment, your doctor can also give you diuretics through an IV (intravenous) catheter.

How to Safely Use Potassium Binders

Potassium binders, like Lokelma and Veltassa, are a new type of medicine that your doctor may prescribe for high potassium. They bind to potassium in your intestines and help your body get rid of extra potassium in your stool (poop). These medicines are effective at lowering potassium levels and have limited side effects.

Just like with diuretics or any other medicine, make sure to follow your doctor’s instructions and the package instructions. Usually, potassium binders come as a powder that you mix into water. You usually take this medicine with food, and you may need to adjust the timing of this medicine to work with any other medicines you take. Talk with your doctor about the best way to use potassium binders.

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