Symptoms of excess potassium levels in the blood include weakness, nausea, paralysis, muscle fatigue, a slow heart rate and abnormal heart rhythms. High potassium levels stem from several causes, including excessive dietary intake, kidney problems and some supplements, including minerals and herbs. Symptoms of high potassium may mirror symptoms of other medical conditions and may vary in severity among individuals.
High levels of potassium, especially when left untreated, may pose significant health risks. According to Mayo Clinic, most physicians discover an elevated potassium level, also called hyperkalemia, in patients when screening for other routine blood tests. Physicians may modify medications or the patients' diets to reduce potassium levels or modify the patients' heart rates using electrocardiograms.
For more severe cases, doctors may treat hyperkalima using sodium tablets or water pills, which help remove excess potassium through the urinary tract. Physicians may also inject insulin and glucose into cells, helping them absorb excess potassium. As a last resort, doctors turn to dialysis, which restores kidney function. Doctors typically perform dialysis on patients with dangerously high levels of potassium. They might supplement dialysis with calcium pills, which help regulate heart rhythms. In extreme cases, hyperkalima may cause ventricullar fibrillation or cause the heart to stop entirely.