How do we treat hyperkalemia?
How to Treat Hyperkalemia
When excess potassium builds up in your bloodstream (also called hyperkalemia) it can be difficult for your body to function properly. You might feel nausea, shortness of breath, or heart palpitations. Thankfully, these symptoms can be managed with treatment. By looking for signs of kidney disease—a common cause of hyperkalemia—making lifestyle changes, examining your medications, and following your healthcare provider’s advice, you can restore blood potassium levels to normal and feel like yourself again.
Looking for Signs of Kidney Disease
Look for swollen feet and ankles.Examine your feet and ankles when you take off your shoes in the evening. Notice any unusual swelling that does not go down to normal after about half an hour. This can be a sign of excess blood potassium.
- Swelling in the feet and ankles tends to be worse at night after you’ve been on your feet all day.
- Certain health conditions, such as pregnancy, may cause foot swelling that is considered normal.
Pay attention to a loss of appetite or vomiting.Keep track of any sudden weight loss related to a loss of appetite. If you find you feel nauseated or experience vomiting without illness, contact your doctor.
- High blood potassium levels can cause this kind of stomach upset.
Look for a drop in your regular energy levels.Pay attention to any times you feel fatigued and weak going about your regular routine. If you’re normally full of energy but can no longer get through your regular workout, you may want to consult your doctor.
- Daytime sleepiness and cloudy thinking may be signs you are experiencing hyperkalemia-related fatigue.
Keep a sleep log to record any trouble sleeping.Leave a notebook by your bed and record any days you have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Excess potassium in your blood can make you feel nauseated and uncomfortable, which may make sleeping difficult.
- If you experience muscle twitching and cramps while trying to sleep, write down the nature and severity of that pain.
- Talk to your doctor about having your blood potassium levels checked If you’re experiencing sleeping difficulties. There are many reasons a person might have trouble sleeping; it doesn’t necessarily mean you have hyperkalemia.
Seek medical help for any shortness of breath or unusual chest pain.Go to your nearest emergency room if you are experiencing shortness of breath or sharp chest pain.A build-up of too much potassium in your bloodstream can damage the muscular tissue of your heart, causing these symptoms.
- Your doctors can administer medications to stabilize your blood potassium levels and limit damage to your heart. Calcium salts, insulin, beta-adrenergic agents, and loop diuretics can all be used as emergency measures to encourage your cells to take up excess potassium in your blood.
- Don’t attempt to treat yourself at home; seek medical care. These medications are intended only for acute crises, not for the regular management of hyperkalemia.
Discuss any combination of these symptoms with your doctor.Talk to your doctor if you notice you have several of these symptoms. It’s normal to feel anxious if you don’t know why you feel unwell. Your doctor will use blood tests to assess your blood potassium level and kidney function.
- Know that having these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have hyperkalemia. Lots of minor problems can cause these symptoms. If you notice a significant change in your eating, sleeping, or energy patterns, it’s always a good idea to seek out a consultation from your doctor.
- If you are experiencing acute kidney failure, it may be possible reverse any damage to your kidneys with appropriate medical treatment.Chronic kidney failure is usually not curable, but the symptoms can be managed.Dialysis and, ultimately, a kidney transplant, are the best way to relieve hyperkalemia related to chronic kidney disease.
Making Lifestyle Changes
Drink your daily recommended amount of fluids to avoid dehydration.Drink 15.5 cups (3.7 L) of fluid every day if you are a man and 11.5 cups (2.7 L) of fluid every day if you are a woman to stay hydrated.These guidelines will help keep your blood potassium levels in a normal range.
- Adequate hydration ensures that your body has enough fluid to carry out its normal functions properly.
- Staying hydrated is especially important if you are suffering from vomiting or diarrhea.
Seek prompt treatment for serious injuries or burns.Go to your nearest emergency room if you injure or burn yourself severely. Untreated trauma can damage red blood cells, which help absorb excess potassium from your blood.
- Doctors can treat your injury to help it heal in a timely way and keep your blood potassium levels in a normal range.
Limit potassium supplements unless directed by your doctor.Talk to your doctor about any health conditions you’d like to treat with supplements. In particular, potassium supplements can cause an unnatural build-up of potassium in your bloodstream if taken excessively.
- Most people get sufficient potassium from their diets and do not need potassium supplementation.
- Many supplements are not regulated by the FDA and can have unintended interactions with your prescription medications.
Avoid using salt-substitutes if you are on a low-salt diet.Steer clear of salt-substitutes, which are often high in potassium. Used to excess, these substitutes can raise the level of potassium in your blood and cause discomfort.
- Try using other pantry spices to add flavor to your food instead of relying on salt. These spices typically don’t affect blood potassium levels.
Limit potassium-rich foods in your diet.Reduce your daily intake of asparagus, potatoes, tomatoes, squash, bananas, oranges, dried fruit and other foods that are rich in potassium if you suffer from hyperkalemia. Eating too many of these foods can raise your blood potassium levels further.
- Some low-potassium foods to try instead include apples, cabbage, cucumbers, rice, pineapple, pears, raspberries, and corn.
Talk to your doctor if you have type 1 diabetes.Create a plan to manage your type 1 diabetes with your doctor. Unchecked type 1 diabetes can cause hyperkalemia and endanger your heart health.
- Treating your diabetes with insulin can help manage your blood-sugar levels. Your doctor can determine if short- or long-acting insulin is right for you.
- Doctors often ask their diabetic patients to eat high-fiber fruits and vegetables. If you are prone to hyperkalemia, choose fruits and vegetables that are lower in potassium.
Get tested for adrenal insufficiency.If you have noticed fatigue, weight loss, or depression, talk to your doctor about being tested for an adrenal insufficiency—when your body struggles to produce certain regulatory hormones.An adrenal insufficiency can cause hyperkalemia and is treatable with oral corticosteroids.
- Your doctor can typically determine if you have an adrenal insufficiency, sometimes called Addison’s disease, with a blood test during an office visit.
- Create a treatment plan with your doctor to manage your adrenal insufficiency and bring your blood-potassium levels back in a normal range.
Examining Your Medication Regimen
Consider alternatives to Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARB).Talk to your doctor if you’ve been diagnosed with hyperkalemia and recently started an ARB for a heart or kidney condition. These medications lower your blood pressure so your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood, but they can also increase blood potassium levels.
- ARBs cause an imbalance in the hormones that control your blood pressure and fluid balance, which in turn increases your blood potassium concentration.
- A different medication may be able to manage your heart or kidney disease while minimizing your hyperkalemia. Never stop or change your medication regimen without talking to your doctor first.
Discuss alternatives to beta-blockers with your doctor.Make an appointment with your doctor if you’ve recently developed hyperkalemia and use a beta-blocker. Beta-blockers dilate your blood vessels to improve conditions like migraine headaches and high blood pressure, but they can elevate your blood potassium levels.
- Your doctor may be able to suggest a different medication to manage your condition that does not have hyperkalemia as a side effect.
Try to reduce your use of ACE inhibitors if possible.Meet with your doctor to talk about medications you can try instead of an ACE inhibitor. These medications block an enzyme in your body that narrows your blood vessels, but they can also cause hyperkalemia and its unpleasant side effects.
- ACE inhibitors are used to treat many conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and migraines.
- Never change or stop a medication without consulting your doctor first. It’s important to keep any serious health conditions under control.
Video: hyperkalemia treatment in the ER
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