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Hyperglycemia & Low Potassium

By Cindy Hill

Hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, is a potentially serious health condition affecting individuals with diabetes. Hyperglycemia can trigger a severe depletion of potassium, a mineral that serves many critical functions in the human body. Carefully follow medical advice for diabetes management including dietary restrictions and medication to minimize the impact of hyperglycemia and the potential for total body potassium depletion.


Potassium is a necessary dietary mineral which must be consumed daily, as it is easily soluble and flushes out in the urine, according to Dr. Elson M. Haas of Periodic Paralysis International. Potassium is the primary mineral found inside of human body cells, while sodium is the primary mineral found outside the body cells. Potassium and sodium must be maintained in careful balance. Potassium is plentiful in fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, but is easily lost in the cooking process. Consuming an excess of sodium in relation to potassium can lead to high blood pressure and other negative health consequences.


Hyperglycemia, or high serum glucose levels, happens occasionally in nearly all diabetics but must be carefully monitored and corrected as it may lead to serious complications like diabetic ketoacidosis and diabetic coma, according to the In addition to high blood glucose levels, symptoms of hyperglycemia include frequent urination and increased thirst. Hyperglycemia results from too little insulin or inefficient insulin use and may also occur due to stress or illness, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Low Potassium Effects

Potassium deficiency can be caused by dietary insufficiency, chronic illness, heavy sweating, or the prolonged use of diuretics or laxatives, according to Dr. Elson M. Haas. Low potassium levels can interfere with glucose metabolism, leading to a rise in serum glucose levels. Hypokalemia, or potassium deficiency, decreases the amount of insulin produced in the body, and leads to decreased insulin receptivity, according to Dr. I. David Weiner of the University of Florida. The combination of these two insulin effects causes serum glucose levels to rise, leading to hyperglycemia.

Hyperglycemia Effects

During a hyperglycemic incident, water from inside cells shifts to the spaces between cells and into the blood system, according to a 1991 report published in "Clinical Chemistry" by researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine. This outflow of intracellular water leads to increased urination, dilutes sodium concentrations, and signals an apparent increase in potassium in the blood, since potassium migrates out of the cell with cellular water, according to the University of Connecticut. While serum potassium may appear high, a person whose hyperglycemia has proceeded to diabetic ketoacidosis has experienced a dangerous total body potassium loss. An increase in serum potassium may be the earliest physiological response to hyperglycemia, according to a 2001 study published in the "Journal of Endocrinology Investigation."

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