Hyperkalaemia is a pathology characterized by an abnormally high level of potassium in the blood. What are the signs of hyperkalemia? What are the risks ?
Hyperkalemia means a excess potassium in the blood. The majority of hyperkalaemias are due to kidney failure and medication. Clinical signs and in particular cardiac risks Hyperkalemia can be serious, so diagnosing its cause and treating it is very important. What are symptoms of hyperkalemia? What are the risks of hyperkalemia? How reduce hyperkalemia?
Although this disorder remains quite rare, hyperkalaemia corresponds to excess potassium in the blood. Normally, the amount of potassium in the blood is around 3.5 to 5 millimoles (mmol – reference measurement unit) per liter of blood. Above 5 mmol/l, people are starting to talk about hyperkalemia.
The effects can vary according to the value of the increase in potassium in the blood, but also its speed of appearance and the pathology of the affected person. When a person has hyperkalemia, they may notice tingling or numbness in the limbs, muscle weakness or decreased reflexes.
There are many causes of hyperkalemia:
► Causes can be of non-drug origin and result simply from an excess of potassium intake, but also from intense and prolonged efforts, from a severe gastrointestinal bleeding, hypothermia, insulin deficiency diabetes or even a acute renal failure. The kidneys help regulate potassium. When the kidneys do not eliminate enough potassium, hyperkalemia can occur.
► The causes can also be of drug originespecially in people who take beta-blockers (used in the treatment of high blood pressure) or digitalis drugs (used in the treatment of heart failure or heart rhythm disorders).
When hyperkalaemia has been detected in a patient, it is essential toperform an electrocardiogram (ECG) because of the risk of the appearance of a cardiac arrhythmia which can lead to death. “Most of the time, hyperkalemia goes unnoticed and is only discovered during a routine examination. It must then be properly managed due to severe complications that it can cause. Indeed, severe hyperkalemia can cause cardiac arrhythmia“warns Dr. Patrice Sanchez-Quero, a specialist in general medicine.
There are several treatments for hyperkalemia, which vary depending on the severity of the disease. But all allow facilitate the expulsion of excess potassium in the blood.
► When the hyperkalemia is significant or in front of a worrying ECG, one can in particular use sodium bicarbonate, certain molecules or insulin. “In some cases, doctors will urgently use, in a specialized service, a machine allowing the filtering of the blood to quickly eliminate the excess potassium. This technique is called hemodialysis“, adds Dr. Patrice Sanchez-Quero.
► Similarly, it may be advisable to reduce foods high in potassiumsuch as bananas, dark chocolate, dried fruits, mushrooms, certain vegetables (chard and spinach) and legumes, among others.
► If this excess potassium is due to taking medication (beta-blockers or digitalis, among others), their intake must of course be stopped.
Thanks to Dr. Patrice Sanchez-Quero, specialist in general medicine.
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