Hyperkalemia AKA Elevated Potassium’s Negative Impact On Kidneys & Quality of Life

One of the most disconcerting side effects of pharmacological treatment of kidney issues is the spike in potassium levels which subsequently occurs from certain drugs. Although there have been studies about the ill effects of excess potassium (also known as hyperkalemia) in the CKD community, these have all been from a clinical standpoint. There haven’t really been any studies which highlight what the experience looks like from a patient’s point of view until recently.

Utilizing the Renal Physician Association’s Kidney Quality Improvement Registry, researchers followed adult CKD patients from 11 U.S. based nephrology practices who were suffering from hyperkalemia.

The participants were provided with a survey of 37 items which featured questions regarding their experience with hyperkalemia and any related treatments. 302 people participated in completing the survey and the results were quite telling. Although 71% recalled conversations with their physicians regarding high potassium, only 57% knew what the term ‘hyperkalemia’ meant. Furthermore, 6% said they were referred to an emergency dept. for their hyperkalemia, 23% reported more frequently occurring blood draws being implemented and 48% reported feeling worried about their hyperkalemia diagnosis.  

Treatment recommendations were as follows among the group of participants:

  • 72% were advised to implement dietary changes. 48% of these people subsequently reported a marked improvement.


  • 38% were told to begin treatment with new prescription medicine. 33% subsequently reported lower potassium levels as a result.


  • 28% were told to change their medicine’s dosage.


  • 60% reported a much improved quality of life in terms of both physical and mental well-being.


Perhaps what this study provided the most clarification for was the very urgent need for transparency between physician and patient, if physicians want their patients to understand the severity of hyperkalemia, it’s essential both physicians and patients are as clear and succinct in their respective explanation and understanding of what hyperkalemia is. It also showcases the need for patients to adhere to their physician’s recommendations, whether these come in the form of dietary changes or changes in prescription or dosing, as hyperkalemia is a situation well within the realm of management, provided these instructions are followed.

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