What Are The Symptoms Of Hyperkalemia?


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Hyperkalemia is a medical condition in which you have too much potassium in your blood. The body needs some potassium to ensure your nerves, heart, and other muscles function properly. However, if you have too much potassium in your blood, you risk serious complications like heart arrhythmias (changes in heart rhythm), heart attack, and even death.

Due to the risk of life-threatening medical problems, doctors must identify hyperkalemia quickly and treat the condition properly. When they fail to do those things, it may be considered medical malpractice, and victims (or their families in cases of wrongful death) may be entitled to compensation for their damages.

What Causes Hyperkalemia?

Often, high potassium occurs because someone has kidney disease. Hyperkalemia happens when the kidneys cannot properly remove potassium from the blood, which causes potassium to build up in the bloodstream. Normally, excess potassium is eliminated from the body through urine. When hyperkalemia is present, the excess potassium passes through the kidneys and back into the bloodstream, building up over time.

The following kidney conditions may result in hyperkalemia:

  • Acute kidney failure is when the kidneys shut down suddenly and stop filtering blood. It can cause a dangerous build-up of waste products, including potassium.
  • Chronic kidney disease is the loss of kidney function over time, the most common cause of high potassium levels.

Additionally, the following conditions have been linked to high potassium levels:

  • Dehydration
  • Addison’s disease (adrenal insufficiency)
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Unmanaged diabetes
  • HIV
  • Alcoholism
  • Medications that raise potassium levels (for example, beta-blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, and angiotensin II receptor blockers)
  • Salt supplements or supplements containing potassium taken excessively
  • Severe injuries or burns that damage muscles and release potassium into the body

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of High Potassium?

The role of the electrolyte potassium is to help with muscle contraction, nerve function, and the way the heart beats. You may not have any symptoms when potassium levels are just a bit high. However, as levels rise, you may see symptoms like:

  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tingling sensations
  • Muscle spasms
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
  • Paralysis
  • Irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias)
  • Seizures
  • Coma and death

How Is Hyperkalemia Diagnosed And Treated?

Diagnosing hyperkalemia is a simple process when doctors identify the need for testing. Typically, your doctor will listen to your heartbeat and ask questions about your medical history, medications and supplements you take, and your diet. If the doctor suspects you may have high potassium levels, lab tests will be ordered to check levels in your blood and urine.

Because numerous things can affect potassium levels, you will likely be asked to have a repeat blood test to confirm the diagnosis. An electrocardiogram (EKG) may also be done to check for any issues with your heart rhythm, though not everyone with high potassium has heartbeat changes that are detectable on an EKG.

Treatment for hyperkalemia varies based on the severity of the condition. Mild cases may only require eating a low-potassium diet or changing medications that may contribute to increased potassium levels. If your levels are higher, you may have to take medication that lowers the potassium in your body. Diuretics, or water pills, may be used to remove potassium via your urine, while other medications work as potassium binders and are taken orally.

If you have kidney disease that is causing your hyperkalemia, it may become necessary to have dialysis, which filters potassium from your blood. Dangerously high levels of potassium will require emergency intervention, including intravenous medications.

Find A Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyer For Your Hyperkalemia Claim

When doctors fail to identify hyperkalemia or treat it properly, it may be a case of medical malpractice. If you suffered a delay in diagnosis or treatment of high potassium due to a doctor’s mistake, you may have a valid medical malpractice lawsuit.

Medical malpractice cases are, by nature, complicated. They require both legal and medical expertise. At Ross Feller Casey in Philadelphia, we have both types of experts on staff. Our team of Ivy League-trained doctors assists our experienced medical malpractice attorneys to bring clients like you the best possible representation.

We have handled cases like yours and have an unmatched track record of winning large financial recoveries for clients. Let us help you with your case. There is no charge for your initial consultation. We handle all of our cases, including hyperkalemia lawsuits, on a contingency basis. That means there will never be a charge to you until a financial recovery is made in your case.

Contact Ross Feller Casey to get started today.

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