Paying attention to the symptoms of any health problem helps in its identification at an early stage. Read this article to know about symptoms of too much potassium in the body.
Potassium is an important mineral for our body which is needed for proper functioning of the cells, muscles and nerves in your body. It plays a vital role in maintaining the electrical rhythm of the heart. However, excess of it in the body is not good for health. Medically, the condition is known as hyperkalemia. These symptoms show up due to damage in the vital organs of the body.
Most of the potassium in your body is present in the body cells. One of the main causes of high potassium is a large-scale destruction of body cells. In this condition, the potassium from these cells are released into blood. This can happen after a serious traumatic injury or burns. Sometimes, muscle cells may get destroyed due to prolonged alcoholism or drug abuse.
There are some medicines like NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), ACE inhibitors used for treating hypertension or diuretics, which, when taken can prevent excretion of excess of potassium from the body through urine. This causes rise in potassium levels in blood. Diabetic patients tend to have it in excess quantities in their bloodstream. It can be a sign of abnormal functioning of the kidneys. The kidneys are responsible for elimination of potassium from the body. When it fails to do so, high amount of potassium can be found in blood.
Signs & Symptoms
In many cases, symptoms are not noticeable. When there is a slight increase in potassium no symptoms are observed. Similar is the case when there is a gradual increase. If the condition arises due to side effects of medicines, one may not experience any symptoms.
Some of the most prevalent symptoms are given below:
- Too much potassium in blood badly affects the heart rate. It can be identified with weak pulse rate, irregular heartbeat, and palpitations. In more serious cases, one may suffer heart attack.
- The damaging effect of potassium on the heart makes these patients lethargic. They lack energy and feel tired and fatigued all the time. They tend to fall asleep more frequently.
- Weakness is felt in the muscles. It weakens the muscles so much that one may find it difficult to move their limbs. Lifting the arms and stretching the legs can seem to be a strenuous activity. They may even feel out of breath while walking around.
- Constant feeling of nausea. People often complain that they have a queasy stomach, and feel like they may throw up anytime.
- High levels in blood have an adverse effect on the circulation of blood in the body. As a result, symptoms like numbness, tingling or cold hands and feet, skin discoloration, heavy feeling in the limbs are observed.
The condition is diagnosed with the help of blood and urine test. It is followed by ECG. When it is confirmed, doctors try to ascertain the exact cause that might have triggered this problem, and then start the treatment. The first step of the treatment is to prevent any further damage to the heart. For this, calcium is administered intravenously. It will help in strengthening the muscles of the body. Then, insulin and glucose is injected directly into the veins in order to control side effects. This helps the extra potassium present in the blood, to move back into the cells.
In some cases, sodium bicarbonate is also given for the same purpose. Another advantage of use of sodium bicarbonate is that it neutralizes acidic components of the body fluids, caused by too much of potassium. Diuretics are helpful for bringing down the level in the body. It increases the urine output, which in turn flushes out more, and more potassium from the body. In cases where kidneys are not functioning normally, dialysis is needed. During the course of hyperkalemia treatment, patients are advised to follow a low potassium diet plan.
The symptoms should not be neglected, and should be treated properly without any delay. If it is left untreated for a long time, it can be life-threatening. With suitable medicines and diet, potassium level in blood can be controlled. If you had this problem in the past or at a higher risk of this problem, you must monitor the levels with the help of regular blood test and health check up.