What Are the Symptoms of High Potassium Levels?

High potassium levels, also called hyperkalemia, can cause heart palpitations, vomiting and breathing problems, according to Healthline. Hyperkalemia may also cause feelings of weakness, tiredness, tingling, numbness and nausea. The type and variety of symptoms depends on the levels of potassium in the blood. Very high potassium levels can cause paralysis, irregular heartbeats and heart attacks, while moderately high potassium levels may not cause any symptoms.

Normal potassium levels are within 3.6 to 5.2 millimoles per liter, according to Mayo Clinic. Potassium levels that exceed 7.0 millimoles per liter require prompt treatment.

Common causes of high potassium include kidney problems, lupus, hormonal disorders and extreme levels of potassium in a patient’s diet, notes WebMD. Some medications may also make it difficult for the kidneys to remove enough potassium from the blood. These drugs include antibiotics, beta-blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and potassium-sparing diuretics. Patients who take herbal supplements, such as Hawthorn berries, milkweed, Siberian ginseng and lily of the valley, or potassium supplements are also at risk for developing high potassium levels.

If kidney failure or other kidney problems cause extremely high potassium levels, doctors prescribe hemodialysis to filter out the excess potassium, explains Healthline. For other causes of high potassium, doctors may prescribe diuretics, gluconate or resin combined with diet changes.