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Problems With High Potassium

By Martin Hughes

Health problems are associated with elevated potassium in your blood. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, most potassium in your body -- approximately 98 percent -- is located within your cells and organs. Elevated blood levels of potassium, a condition known as hyperkalemia, may cause many symptoms, and it may signal a serious underlying health condition that requires medical attention and intervention. In some cases, however, hyperkalemia does not cause any symptoms.

Addison's Disease

Addison's disease is associated with elevated potassium levels. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, or NIDDK, Addison's disease -- also called primary adrenal insufficiency -- is an endocrine gland disorder that occurs when your adrenal glands do not generate sufficient amounts of certain hormones. Your adrenal glands are triangular-shaped glands that sit on top of your kidneys. The NIDDK states that Addison's disease affects between one and four people out of every 100,000 individuals. All ages and genders may be affected. Common signs and symptoms associated with Addison's disease include elevated blood potassium levels, chronic fatigue, muscle weakness, loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, irritability and depression. Addison's disease is usually an autoimmune condition, which means that your body's immune system attacks its own healthy tissues.

Chronic Kidney Failure

Chronic kidney failure is a health problem that can cause high levels of potassium to accumulate in your blood. Chronic kidney failure involves the gradual loss of kidney function. Your kidneys filter metabolic waste material and excess fluids from your blood, which are then excreted from your body in your urine. If your kidneys are not functioning properly, high levels of waste products and fluid may accumulate in your body, causing discomfort and leading to numerous health complications if left untreated. Common signs and symptoms associated with chronic kidney failure include high levels of potassium in your blood, decreased urine output, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, weakness, sleep problems, reduced mental sharpness, muscle twitches and cramps and persistent itching. According to, signs and symptoms associated with chronic kidney failure may not manifest until irreversible kidney damage has already occurred.


Rhabdomyolysis is a medical problem that can cause high levels of potassium to accumulate in your blood. According to MedlinePlus, rhabdomyolysis involves the breakdown of muscle fibers, which leads to the release of muscle fiber contents into your bloodstream. Certain muscle fiber contents may be injurious to your kidneys and cause kidney damage. Certain risk factors may increase your likelihood of experiencing rhabdomyolysis-related kidney damage, including alcoholism, crush injuries, heatstroke, seizures, severe exertion, drug abuse, low phosphate levels and any condition -- such as trauma -- that damages your skeletal muscles. Common signs and symptoms associated with rhabdomyolysis include elevated levels of potassium in your blood, abnormal urine color, general weakness, muscle stiffness and aching, muscle tenderness, fatigue and joint pain.

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