Dehydration & High Potassium Levels

Causes

Excessive vomiting and diarrhea, laxative abuse and excessive physical activity in hot weather cause dehydration. Hyperkalemia occurs as the result of dehydration, tissue trauma and decreased kidney function.

Significance

Seizures, coma, loss of muscle and nerve function, abnormal heart rhythm, cardiac arrest and death can occur due to severe hyperkalemia.

Effects

Dehydration symptoms include dry mouth, thirst, sleepiness, muscle weakness, headache, dizziness, lightheadedness, and decreased urination. Severe dehydration causes extreme thirst, dry mouth and skin, shriveled skin, low blood pressure, fever, rapid heartbeat and loss of consciousness. Severe hyperkalemia symptoms include weak or absent pulse, nausea and irregular heartbeat.

Treatment

Dehydration is treated with rehydration solution (children) and intravenous fluids and salts (adults). Insulin, diuretics, beta agonists, binding resins and sodium bicarbonate treat severe hyperkalemia, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. These drugs move potassium out of the bloodstream and into the cells and encourage the kidneys to eliminate excess potassium.

Prevention

Avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of fluids before exercise, during bouts of gastrointestinal illness (nausea and vomiting) and during long periods of physical activity. Preventing dehydration can also prevent hyperkalemia.