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Are elevated potassium levels signs of kidney failure?

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Posted on Mon, 16 May 2016
Question: Hi,
My name is XXXX. I have been on Lasix for many years, and my potassium has run low for the last twenty. I have been taking prescribed potassium for about that long - most recently five 20 meq daily. Two weeks ago I had lab work done which showed my potassium level to be well above normal and was taken off all of it immediately. In a week's time it has dropped to 2.6. I will be having it checked again in a few days. Why would this happen? Is the only cause kidney failure?
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Answered by Dr. Michelle Gibson James (43 minutes later)
Brief Answer:
not likely, the levels would be still high

Detailed Answer:
HI, thanks for using healthcare magic

Kidney failure can cause an increase in potassium levels but if this was the case, the levels should still be at least slightly elevated even after the potassium supplements are discontinued.

In kidney failure, the value would not normally be at 2.6 unless the kidney impairment is very very mild and not really affecting kidney function.

The high levels are likely iatrogenic, this means medical cause. It is possible that you may have been receiving more supplements that you needed even though you may have been tested regularly.

The fact the level went to below normal likely means that though you need supplements , you do not need as much as you were taking.

I hope this helps, feel free to ask any other questions
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
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Follow up: Dr. Michelle Gibson James (16 minutes later)
Just wondering if it is safe to stay off the potassium supplements. It had risen to 3.2 which my PCP considered "dangerously high". After having it run so low for all these years, I am wondering what would cause it to suddenly rise. Should I have additional tests? See a specialist? Or, am I free to accept this as a normal change?
doctor
Answered by Dr. Michelle Gibson James (39 minutes later)
Brief Answer:
normal US range- lower limit 3.5,so value is low not high

Detailed Answer:
HI

Normal levels of potassium can differ slightly from one lab to the next but for most labs the normal range of potassium is 3.5 to 5.1, some labs 3.6 to 5.2.It is possible to have some variation on these values, depend on lab technique and machinery as well as values for population

3.2 is below the normal range according to these ranges. This is not high, it is low according to these ranges.

These ranges are from mayo and emedicine.health in the US ,here we use 3.1 to 4.1.

You may want find out the range at your labs , it should be printed at the side of your result if you have access to it

Please feel free to ask any other questions
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
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Follow up: Dr. Michelle Gibson James (12 minutes later)
Thank you, Dr. XXXXXXX

I was not given a copy of the results. He probably said it had risen to 4.2 and had dropped to 3.6 (which he described as still "high normal"). Said he wanted it down lower. Your help has greatly eased my mind.

God bless you and all your peers at healtcaremagic.com

XXXX.
doctor
Answered by Dr. Michelle Gibson James (8 hours later)
Brief Answer:
no problem

Detailed Answer:
HI

Sorry about the late reply

God bless you and keep you with Him always

If anything else unclear, can let me know
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
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Answered by
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Dr. Michelle Gibson James

General & Family Physician

Practicing since :2001

Answered : 16811 Questions

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Are elevated potassium levels signs of kidney failure?

Brief Answer: not likely, the levels would be still high Detailed Answer: HI, thanks for using healthcare magic Kidney failure can cause an increase in potassium levels but if this was the case, the levels should still be at least slightly elevated even after the potassium supplements are discontinued. In kidney failure, the value would not normally be at 2.6 unless the kidney impairment is very very mild and not really affecting kidney function. The high levels are likely iatrogenic, this means medical cause. It is possible that you may have been receiving more supplements that you needed even though you may have been tested regularly. The fact the level went to below normal likely means that though you need supplements , you do not need as much as you were taking. I hope this helps, feel free to ask any other questions