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Serious Consequences of Hyperkalemia

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 6/28/2009

This article focuses of the serious consequences of hyperkalemia, or high blood potassium. It defines this condition as well.

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    Hyperkalemia, also referred to as high blood potassium, is a medical condition in which a person's body has too much potassium. This condition is fairly common, but when not treated correctly and in a timely manner the consequences of hyperkalemia can be very dangerous and sometimes even deadly. This condition can be caused by a number of things such as certain medications, adrenal gland diseases and kidney dysfunction. To avoid the consequences of hyperkalemia, treatment of the underlying condition needs to be prompt and accurate. If left untreated this condition can turn severe and severe hyperkalemia has a 67% chance of being fatal.

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    Why the Human Body Needs Potassium

    Potassium is essential for healthy heart, muscle and nerve function. It helps to transmit nerve signals and aids in healthy digestion. It is essential for a normal heart electrical rhythm. When potassium levels rise, hyperkalemia results causing interference to these bodily functions.

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    Consequences of Hyperkalemia

    A common consequence of hyperkalemia is an abnormal heart rhythm. When potassium levels are high they interfere with heart rhythms. This can result in several different heart problems including cardiac arrest. The heart is also a muscle so when hyperkalemia affects the muscles it can also pose serious consequences to a person's heart.

    Hyperkalemia interferes with healthy muscle function. This can lead to muscle spasms and other muscle related illnesses. It can also interfere with the muscles necessary for healthy digestion. This can lead to a variety of digestive ailments including improper absorption of essential nutrients.

    Hyperkalemia interferes with the nervous system by disrupting the electrical signals sent by the nerves. The nerves are responsible for every single bodily function. When they are not sending the right signals the body will not be able to perform properly. If the nerves related to speech are affected, speech may become difficult. If the nerves related to leg movement become impaired walking may become difficult or even impossible. If the nerves that control bowel and bladder function become impaired, incontinence may result.

    In severe cases of hyperkalemia, death and cardiac arrest may occur. Once hyperkalemia gets to a certain point, there is a chance that it will not be able to be controlled leading to cardiac arrest and death.

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    Resources

    Medicine Net. (2009) Hyperkalemia. Retrieved on June 27, 2009 from Website: http://www.medicinenet.com/hyperkalemia/article.htm

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