When You Have Too Much Potassium, This Is What Happens

While potassium is an essential electrolyte that the body needs in order to function properly, having too much potassium in your bloodstream can cause hyperkalemia. Hyperkalemia is a condition that occurs when the level of potassium in your blood is higher than normal. This is most commonly caused by kidney disease (via WebMd).

Your kidneys are responsible for regulating the amount of potassium in your body. Diseases that affect the kidneys, like Addison's disease, can slow the production of aldosterone, a hormone that helps the kidneys filter out potassium. This can cause a buildup of potassium in the body.

Hyperkalemia has also been linked to certain supplements and medications. Blood thinners, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), herbal supplements, potassium supplements, amoxicillin, and a number of blood pressure medications can increase the amount of potassium in the bloodstream. In addition, hyperkalemia can be caused by a high-potassium diet. Foods like melons, bananas, dried fruits, orange juice, beans, and lentils are all particularly high in potassium.

The effects of hyperkalemia

Hyperkalemia can disrupt the nervous system and cardiovascular system, leading to a number of health complications. Most critically, hyperkalemia can cause arrhythmia and heart palpitations (via Healthline). An arrhythmia is when your heart beats too fast or too slowly, while palpitations can feel like your heart is racing or skipping beats. High levels of potassium in the body can interfere with electric signals in the muscle of the heart, causing your heart to beat abnormally. If you are experiencing arrhythmia, heart palpitations, chest pains, shortness of breath, or a weakening pulse, you should contact your doctor immediately.

Hyperkalemia can also cause muscle weakness, mood changes, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, and numbness or tingling in the extremities. Depending on the person, these symptoms could be subtle and gradually develop over time, making hyperkalemia more difficult to diagnose. If you have any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your doctor. They will likely instruct you to avoid certain foods and medications that are rich in potassium.