IN THIS ARTICLE
Conditions of Potassium Imbalance
Hyperkalemia (hyper=too much + kal=potassium + emia=in the blood) is a potentially life-threatening situation because it causes abnormal electrical conduction in the heart and potentially life-threatening heart rhythm problems. High potassium levels are most often associated with kidney failure, in which potassium levels build up and cannot be excreted in the urine. Medications can be used to lower potassium levels until the kidneys are able to excrete the excess in the urine. However, emergency dialysis may be required to remove the potassium if kidney function is poor.
Hypokalemia (hypo=too little) is most often seen when the body loses too much potassium from causes like vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, and medications like diuretics or laxatives. It is often seen in diabetic ketoacidosis, where potassium is excessively lost in the urine. Since chemicals in the body are related in their metabolism, low magnesium levels can be associated with hypokalemia.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/4/2015
Must Read Articles Related to Electrolytes
Patient Comments & Reviews
The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Electrolytes:
Sodium Imbalance - Patient Experience
Have you experienced sodium imbalance? Please describe your experience.
Potassium Imbalance - Patient Experience
Have you experienced potassium imbalance? Please describe your experience.
Calcium Imbalance - Patient Experience
Have you experienced calcium imbalance? Please describe your experience.
Magnesium Imbalance - Patient Experience
Have you experienced magnesium imbalance? Please describe your experience.
Electrolytes - Experience
What conditions have you experienced from having too many or too few electrolytes?
Nutrition and Healthy Eating Resources
- Next Generation Weight Loss Treatments
- How Weight Loss Can Help Diabetes
- 13 Most Common Food Allergies
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape
This article describes important principles and specific methods of fluid, electrolyte, and nutrition (FEN) management in newborns, with a special focus on patients with complex fluid and electrolyte requirements, including premature, very low birth weight (VLBW), and extremely low birth weight (ELBW) neonates, as well as patients who have undergone abdominal surgery and those who have sepsis.