What Causes Elevated Potassium Levels in the Blood?

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Kidney disease is the primary cause of elevated potassium levels, making the kidneys unable to filter extra potassium from the blood, notes WebMD. Other causes include alcoholism, adrenal failure, excessive use of potassium supplements and a severe injury, which can destroy the red blood cells, according to Mayo Clinic.

The kidneys balance the amount of potassium in the blood. When they malfunction and fail to remove the extra potassium from the body, it causes increased levels of potassium in the blood, creating a condition known as hyperkalemia, states WebMD. Conditions that affect the kidney’s ability to function properly include lupus, kidney failure and hormonal disorders. Drug use or excessive alcohol intake can make the muscles break down, increasing potassium within muscle cells. This condition can also result from taking chemotherapy drugs or the overuse of potassium supplements, explains Healthline.

Health conditions that can make cells release too much potassium include hemolysis, which is the breakdown of red blood cells, as well as tissue injury and diabetes. Another contributing condition can be the breakdown of muscle tissue, which is known as rhabdomyolysis, notes WebMD. A person may not experience any noticeable symptoms, but if symptoms do exist, they are related to the high levels of potassium in the body. They include nausea or vomiting, weakness, breathing problems and skipped heartbeats. The patient should see a doctor in case of these symptoms, stresses Healthline.