In the US around 3.7 million adults are reportedly diagnosed with hyperkalemia. The condition = excessive/high levels of potassium is regarded as dangerous and is known to cause heart attacks. The possibility of fatalities cannot be ruled out in certain cases of high potassium levels, and unfortunately, symptoms of the condition are often not recognized or identified in time. Here is a detailed look at how to flush excess potassium and the various complications that may arise as a result of high potassium levels in the body.
What is hyperkalemia and how to flush excess potassium?
Ideal potassium levels for adults are in the range of 3.5 to 5.0 millimoles per liter. Whenever potassium levels are in excess of 5.5 millimoles per liter, the individual is considered as having hyperkalemia. Before we learn how to flush excess potassium it is time to understand more about the condition. Potassium is one of the vital nutrients required in the body and helps the functioning of nerves and muscles. Typically found in food products, it is necessary to ensure that levels of potassium are maintained at the right levels. Higher levels of potassium can result in damage to the heart, and as a consequence, there is a possibility of heart attacks. When the levels of potassium are in excess of 6.5 millimoles per liter, the individual is at heightened risk of heart related problems and requires urgent medical intervention.
What causes hyperkalemia and how to flush excess potassium?
Various conditions and reasons are attributed to high levels of potassium in the body. For instance, individuals with chronic kidney conditions are likely to have hyperkalemia. This is because the impaired functions of the kidney affect the ability to filter and expel potassium from the body. Similarly, individuals on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are at risk of developing hyperkalemia. Diuretics, angiotensin inhibitors, beta blockers, and calcium blockers are other medications that may result in higher potassium levels in the body. Inadequate insulin levels are also a cause for high potassium levels, and this effectively means that individuals with untreated diabetes or diabetes that has not been controlled are at risk of developing hyperkalemia.
Additionally, individuals who have suffered some form of injury may experience a spike in potassium levels. Lower levels of the hormone aldosterone are known to cause an increase in potassium levels, and individuals with congenital adrenal hyperplasia are at elevated risk as the gene mutation results in lowering the hormone levels. Similarly, patients with hypoaldosteronism are also at risk of having high potassium levels. In rare cases, there is a possibility of individuals with high dietary intake of potassium ending up with hyperkalemia. Finally, patients with congestive heart failure are likely to have high potassium levels.
What are the symptoms associated with hyperkalemia and how to flush excess potassium?
Typically, it is hard to discern symptoms of hyperkalemia, and this is one of the reasons why most individuals often learn of the condition at an advanced stage. While there are no noticeable symptoms that can indicate high potassium levels, individuals with acute hyperkalemia are likely to experience certain symptoms. Individuals can then seek suitable medical attention to determine potassium levels and look at effective measures to bring down the levels. It is important to understand that while acute hyperkalemia is deemed to be serious when compared with chronic hyperkalemia, both conditions have the potential to be dangerous in nature and require medical attention. This is necessary to prevent heart attacks and possible paralysis among patients. When potassium levels spike to levels that are considered high, individuals are likely to experience certain symptoms. For instance, the patient may experience overall weakness and fatigue with no specific attributed condition or reason. Weakness in the muscles, accompanied by pain or cramps is another possible symptom of high potassium level. Patients are also likely to experience nausea and have difficulty while breathing. As a result of high potassium levels, there is a possibility of individuals experiencing pain in the chest with abnormal heartbeat.
How to flush excess potassium and effective methods to deal with the condition
Now that we have a clear understanding of the reasons behind the spike in potassium levels, it is time to learn how to flush excess potassium. Typically, the treatment options for high potassium levels hinge on the severity of the condition. In certain instances, to prevent the condition from manifesting into trauma, specialists resort to dialysis to bring down the potassium levels. Additionally, as part of triage, intravenous medications are also administered to rid the body of high potassium levels. Patients diagnosed with chronic hyperkalemia indicate impaired functioning of the kidneys, and treatment includes medication to restore/improve the functioning of the kidneys.
Medications to manage the condition
As seen above, reducing the levels of potassium involves medications. Various medications are typically used to bring down the potassium levels. Typically, potassium binders and diuretics are regarded as the most common for treating hyperkalemia. As we learn how to flush excess potassium let us take a look at how diuretics help treat the condition. The mechanism of action of diuretics involve increasing the amount of water, electrolytes and sodium that is flushed out of the body. This method helps in reducing potassium levels considerably and is also effective in bringing down blood pressure levels. The method is commonly used for managing acute hyperkalemia as well as chronic hyperkalemia.
Similarly, potassium binders are also used for effectively managing the condition. The mechanism of action of potassium binders involve increasing the amount of potassium that is expelled from the body. The potassium binders effectively bind themselves to the excess potassium in the bowels, and this is then flushed out from the body through stool. This method is also used for managing both acute hyperkalemia and chronic hyperkalemia. Various potassium binders are presently in medical use, with new formulations offering greater options to patients with diabetes and other heart diseases. Medications typically taken by patients with diabetes and heart conditions often result in an increase in potassium levels, and new potassium binders are effective treatment options in such cases.
Other options for reducing potassium levels in the body
In addition to the above methods about how to flush excess potassium there are other options that are effectively used to treat hyperkalemia. The first of these options is changing medications. Certain treatment regimens involve medications that cause an increase in potassium levels. As listed earlier, medications including renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system inhibitors are known to trigger a spike I potassium levels. Similarly, potassium supplements also result in hyperkalemia. With the right diagnosis, patients are advised to change medications/supplements and replace the same with other medications that do not trigger an increase in potassium levels.
The second option is to bring about changes in dietary intake. For instance, a low potassium diet will help regulate potassium levels. This is achieved either by restricting foods that are identified as having high potassium content or by relying on appropriate methods of preparation to lower the potassium levels. Boiling of certain food products sufficiently before consumption is also known to bring down the potassium levels. It is important to ensure that water used for boiling is not consumed. For instance, yams and potatoes that are boiled properly will keep potassium levels low. Certain beverages and drinks are known to cause an increase in potassium levels – coffee, wine, milk, the juice of carrots/passion fruit, beer and cider. Dietary modifications include eliminating or reducing the intake of the above beverages and drinks.