Potassium is a positively charged electrolyte which, along with other mineral molecules (e.g., sodium, chloride), is responsible for regulating the body’s fluid balance. Along with sodium, its most important function is nerve transmission, but it also plays an important role in muscle function, energy supply to cells, and maintenance of acid-base balance. It is present in all fluids in our body but is found in the largest amount inside the cells, in an amount of about 150g. If the potassium level is too high (hyperkalaemia) or too low (hypokalaemia), the risk of arrhythmia, respiratory failure and shock increases.
What does the test show?
The test shows possible electrolyte imbalance, and conditions related to hyperkalaemia or hypokalaemia.
In which cases is it recommended to perform the test?
Potassium levels are usually measured with other electrolytes as part of a general examination but may also be ordered by a specialist in the event of renal failure, dialysis, or heart diseases.
What sample is needed for the test?
A blood sample taken from a vein is needed for the test.
What can the result indicate?
Excessive potassium levels (hyperkalaemia) are most often caused by kidney failure but can also indicate Addison’s disease (adrenal damage), diabetes, or dehydration.
Low potassium level (hypokalaemia) is less common, it occurs as a result of diarrhoea and vomiting. Low levels of potassium can lead to heart problems and muscle weakness.
What to do after the test?
The test alone cannot diagnose any diseases, and in all cases consult an internist or haematologist to determine the exact diagnosis and necessary therapy.