What causes hyperkalemia (high serum potassium levels)?

Updated: Apr 09, 2020
  • Author: Eleanor Lederer, MD, FASN; Chief Editor: Vecihi Batuman, MD, FASN  more...
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Hyperkalemia can result from any of the following:

  • Excessive intake of potassium
  • Decreased excretion of potassium
  • A shift of potassium from the intracellular to the extracellular space

In many cases a combination of these factors is involved. For example, a person with a GFR of less than 45 mL/min who consistently eats large amounts of high-potassium foods and is taking a medication that blocks the rennin-angiotensin-aldosterone system is at very high risk for hyperkalemia due to limitations in renal excretion of potassium in the face of high intake.

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