What is Hyperkalemia? Hyperkalemia is the medical term for when you experience high potassium levels in your blood. In terms of numbers, a healthy individual will have between 3.6mmol/L and 5.2mmol/L in their body. Anything higher than that is officially classified as hyperkalemia. Between 5.3mmol/L and 6.0mmol/L is mild hyperkalemia. Between 6.1mmol/L and 7.0 mmol/L is moderate hyperkalemia. Above 7mmol/L is severe hyperkalemia. Why is Too Much Potassium Harmful? Potassium is healthy for you in the right doses. Your body needs it to function properly. It is an incredibly important substance that plays a vital role in your nerves and muscle cells. This means that you need it for your heart to work. Like with anything else, too much of a good thing is not good. The more common form of hyperkalemia only rears mild to moderate symptoms. The most extreme severities of this condition can result in death. Symptoms of Hyperkalemia Generally, until your hyperkalemia is severe, you may not even experience or recognize any of the symptoms. As your levels soar to dangerous heights, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms: Muscle weakness or pain. Your muscles may feel tender or even painful. It may feel as though you just finished an intense workout. Fatigue. Despite getting adequate sleep, you may feel sluggish and tired the entire day or you may be too weak to function. Nausea. An upset stomach may or may not be accompanied by some vomiting. This is a common sign of hyperkalemia. Breathing problems. You may find it difficult to take deep breaths or find yourself forced to gasp for air. Irregular heartbeat. Your heart may beat funnily or feel weird in your chest. This is always a symptom to bring up to your doctor immediately. Chest pains. Chest pains ranging from mild to severe are a common result of hyperkalemia. In the most extreme cases, hyperkalemia left untreated can cause cardiac arrest and death. What Causes Hyperkalemia? There are several known causes of hyperkalemia, which range from medical disorders to lifestyle habits. Hyperkalemia is known to have many causes. These include: Kidney Disease The main function of a kidney is that it filters everything in your body. When there is something wrong with your kidneys, it can mess up all sorts of vitamin levels in your body. Potassium is just one of them. Heart Disease Heart disease results in a variety of factors that make it more likely to have problems with your potassium levels. Hormone Imbalances Having abnormally low amounts of aldosterone can result in potassium problems. This can happen due to a variety of conditions, including hypoaldosteronism and congenital adrenal hyperplasia. Diabetes A lack of insulin may be the culprit behind enhanced potassium levels. This is something that would be more likely to occur if diabetes is undermanaged (or undiagnosed). [youmaylike] Medications Side effects of certain medications could cause potassium levels to rise. You may be surprised to see that some common medications will do this. Non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, will do it. Some of the other medications that can do this are heparin, mannitol, beta-blockers, angiotensin inhibitors, calcium blockers, and cyclosporine. Diet Medications are not the only way to introduce potassium to the body. There are lots of foods that can lead to heightened potassium levels. Many of these foods are healthy, but to a person at risk for hyperkalemia, they can be dangerous if not eaten in responsible quantities. There is also the chance that you are a victim of pseudo hyperkalemia. As the name suggests, you do not have any potassium problems. Sometimes due to faulty equipment, you will get a wrong reading. Hyperkalemia Treatment To determine how to treat hyperkalemia, it is important that you first identify the cause of it in yourself. Getting advice from a licensed medical physician is the best way to determine your treatments. Diet Change Changing your diet can do wonders for your health. If you battle hyperkalemia, consider limiting your intake of foods rich in potassium like cucumbers, pumpkins, potatoes, bananas, grapefruit, oranges, eggplants and peas. Intravenous Calcium or Insulin and Glucose Medical injections are an efficient and fast technique to lower calcium levels. When diet alone is not enough, these can drop your potassium levels to a safer place in a pinch. Albuterol Doctors may also administer albuterol alone or in addition to other treatments. Unfortunately, this does not work for everyone. Changing Medications If a certain medication is causing dangerous, unwanted side effects, you may want to talk to your doctor about switching.
What is Crohn's Disease?
Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) characterized by mild or chronic inflammation of parts of the digestive tract. It is estimated that 780,000 U.S. citizens have Crohn’s disease. These statistics cause concern because researchers have yet to identify the causes of the disease, or a cure.
Although Crohn's disease is not life-threatening, it can cause fatal complications.
Causes and Symptoms of Crohn's Disease
There are common ecological, heredity, and immune system factors found amid patients with IBD.
People living in developed nations, urban, and northern climates are more likely to have IBD compared with the people in underdeveloped, rural, and Southern climates.
Research shows that Crohn's disease is common in families with a history of IBD. Up to 20% of patients with IBD have a parent, child, or sibling with Crohn's or an IBD type of disease.
A healthy person's immune system pushes white blood into the gastrointestinal tract to launch an attack on bacteria and other harmful microorganisms. During the attack, the immune system spares the beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract. Inflammation occur in periods when the immune system is on the defense.
However, with IBD patients, the immune system does not differentiate between harmful and beneficial bacteria. Further, the inflammation that occurs during the immune response does not subside. It becomes chronic and causes ulcers and the intestinal walls thicken.
The most common symptoms of Crohn's disease include:
- Blood in the stool
- Unexplained weight loss
- Abdominal cramps
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Frequent diarrhea
Smoking, poor nutrition, and stress increase the severity of Crohn’s symptoms.
Because of frequent inflammation, scar tissues that form in the intestinal wall cause the intestines to become narrow and consequently form strictures. Repeated inflammation and scarring of the small intestines may cause the scars to rupture.
The main characteristic of Crohn's disease is an inflamed intestinal lining. The inflammation causes changes to the intestinal lining, the mucosa, and the thickness of the intestinal walls, which leads to ulcers. Inflamed stomach, mouth or intestinal walls make eating and feeding very hard for the patient.
Fistulas and Anal Fissures
Fistulas and fissures are among the severe symptoms of Crohn's disease. Fistulas are connections or holes between an organ and the intestines. At the same time, fissures are painful tears in the anal tissues, which can expose the patient to other infections or lead to fistulas.
How is Crohn's Disease Diagnosed?
Doctors diagnose Crohn's through a process of elimination. A doctor will use several tests to diagnose and rule out likely causes of your symptoms. These tests range from stool tests to look for blood in your gut, colonoscopy, imaging tests like MRIs and CT scans, biopsy, or endoscopy.
By looking at the gut inside out, the doctor can then rule out other causes of symptoms and confirm Crohn's disease.
How is Crohn's Disease Treated?
There is no cure for Crohn's disease, but doctors can manage the disease through various ways such as administering antibiotics, steroids, immunosuppressant drugs, and anti-inflammatory drugs.
Doctors may also take other surgical measures depending on the severity symptoms, the extent of flare-ups, and the damage left in the intestines.
These measures include:
- Abscess drainage
- Colostomy or ileostomy
- Bowel resection (removal of some bowel sections with fistulas)
- Reconstructive surgery
To reduce flares and mitigate the severity of Crohn's doctors advise a change in diet. It's essential that you make an appointment with a registered dietitian capable of advising on the best foods to eat and foods to avoid.
It is also vital to keep a food diary and take note of your trigger foods or any information likely to be useful during follow up doctor appointments.
You should also be sure to take note of any prescription or over the counter medications you ingest. A diary helps the doctor trace the cause of a flare. For instance, aspirin in medications causes fire in the gut for people with gastro-intestinal issues.
As a start, increase your water intake and limit excessive fats and dairy in your diet. Look at the spices you use to cook. Chances are if your intestines are inflamed, some spices will make the pain more intense.
Talk to your doctor or dietitian regarding which supplements are best for you. Having an inflamed gut means absorbing fewer nutrients, hence the weight loss. It's essential to have alternative sources of nutrients to ensure to keep up with the body's needs.