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Hyperkalemia And Hypokalemia Specialist

Metro Renal Associates

Nephrologists located in Washington, DC & Capitol Heights, MD

If your potassium levels are too high or too low as the result of kidney disease or medication, you’re at risk of serious complications, including cardiac arrest. The team of board-certified nephrologists at Metro Renal Associates in Washington, DC, is experienced in treating hyperkalemia (high potassium) and hypokalemia (low potassium), which commonly result from kidney disease and certain medications. To get your potassium levels under control, call the office or schedule an appointment online today.

Hyperkalemia and Hypokalemia Q & A

What is hyperkalemia?

Hyperkalemia is when you have an elevated level of potassium in your blood. Your nerves and muscle cells, including those in your heart, need potassium to function, but as with many nutrients, too much potassium is at least as dangerous to your health as not having enough.

When your kidneys are healthy, they flush excess potassium from your blood through urine or sweat, so hyperkalemia isn’t a concern. However, this means that when your kidneys fail or don’t function correctly, potassium can build up, resulting in hyperkalemia. Other causes of the condition include dehydration, Type 1 diabetes, Addison’s disease, and certain medications, including drugs to treat high blood pressure.

Depending on how high your blood potassium level is, you may not necessarily have symptoms from hyperkalemia. But if you do have symptoms, they can include:

  • Muscle fatigue and weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Abnormal or slow heart rhythms
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Numbness or tingling

If you have kidney disease or take blood pressure medicine and have these symptoms, schedule an appointment at Metro Renal Associates right away. When left untreated, hyperkalemia is life-threatening and can cause heart failure.

What is hypokalemia?

Hypokalemia is when the level of potassium in your blood is too low. It’s rarely the result of consuming too little dietary potassium. More often, hypokalemia is a symptom of a condition in your kidneys or digestive system, or it’s a side effect of a medication. Causes of hypokalemia include:

  • Diuretics (water pills), which can control blood potassium levels, but sometimes remove too much potassium
  • Vomiting and diarrhea, usually from various illnesses and excessive use of laxatives
  • Elevated corticosteroid levels, from conditions like Cushing’s syndrome and from medications like prednisone
  • Low magnesium in the body, which can result from kidney failure and diabetes

Similarly to hyperkalemia, the symptoms of hypokalemia usually don’t show up until your blood potassium level is dangerously low. If you have a condition that may cause low blood potassium and are experiencing muscle cramps, weakness, fatigue, constipation, or heart palpitations, you should see the team at Metro Renal Associates. Hypokalemia can be life-threatening when your potassium levels dip low enough.

How are hyperkalemia and hypokalemia treated?

The team at Metro Renal Associates diagnoses the underlying cause of your hyperkalemia or hypokalemia while directly treating your blood potassium level.

Hypokalemia may result from diuretics, which are commonly prescribed for high blood pressure. Your provider may switch you to a potassium-sparing diuretic and have you take concentrated potassium supplements, either orally or intravenously.

Hyperkalemia may result from kidney disease, which can impact how your kidneys filter potassium from your blood, so your doctor focuses primarily on treating the underlying condition. The team at Metro Renal Associates may also prescribe medication to remove extra potassium from your body. If you’re taking medications such as ACE inhibitors or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories that can raise your potassium levels, your provider recommends alternatives.

Don’t let hyperkalemia or hypokalemia become a medical crisis. To get treatment, call Metro Renal Associates or schedule an appointment online today.