Potassium levels in bloods

Hi everybody. I hope you are having the best day possible.

It's just a little thing but it's niggling away at me. After my regular blood test last week I got a call from the lovely rheumy nurse. She was concerned that it showed high levels of potassium. I asked what could have caused that and she said it was probably to do with the way the blood draw was taken and asked that I get another blood draw done asap which I did the next day. Lovely rheumy nurse rang again the day after that and said the levels were coming down nicely. What?

If this high potassium reading was caused by problems with the first bloods the second should have been normal surely and not "coming down nicely"?

Did a silly thing and googled "high potassium in blood" which said it indicated severe kidney problems. I already have kidney damage from illness in childhood and have some odd symptoms. Should I start panicking?


24 Replies

  • Hi Gnarli

    I have chronic kidney disease and last year I had a couple if episodes of A K I.

    I was taken into hospital as my kidney function went down to 14% - and boy was I poorly.

    After spending a week on drips and awful hospital food I was finally discharged and my kidney function improved.

    But a couple of weeks after coming from hospital

    The renal nurse called in to see me and did a blood test .It recorded my potassium levels at 6.7!- she nearly had a wobbly fit and sent me straight back to the renal unit.

    They did a repeat test and my potassium level had come down to just over 6.0.Apparently,these blood tests are very sensitive and can change quite quickly and any minor disruption can corrupt the result.

    After giving me a course of sodium bicarbonate tablets to take I was released home from the hospital later that day.My levels returned to acceptable within about a week.

    They let me out of the hospital as they knew I had problems with my kidneys but no real reason was given for the cause of it.

    I was given a list of foods and drinks to avoid to prevent an increase in potassium eg bananas,oranges,apples,grapes,nuts.,all things that until now I had seen as healthy foods.

    If you are at all concerned about your potassium levels check with gp as high or low levels are equally as bad.

    Take care.



  • Hi Crusee

    Many thanks for your kind response. I'm sorry to hear you've been poorly and, adding insult to injury, been subjected to hospital food.

    I have made an appointment with the GP for Friday just to put my mind at rest and will probably leave with yet another script for antibiotics. Looking at the list of foods best avoided re an increase in potassium probably describes my favourite foods. Bother and drat.

    Thanks again


  • Hi Jan.

    The list contained a lot more things than those too,they were just an example from memory.

    Potatoes featured heavily on there especially jacket potatoes ( its to do with the roasted skins - best bit in my opinion).Things like potato crisps and potato snacks ,and chocolate on there as well.

    Wise to see the GP he can possibly give you an explanation and some guidance on diet and meds.

    I think if they were unduly concerned they would have had you in hospital by now ,and since they are "coming down nicely" they are obviously sorting themselves out without too much outside help.Maybe it was just a glitch,dont panic just yet but just be aware of it.

    Strange thing is I didnt feel ill when the potassium reading was high and that is the worrying aspect.You dont know anythings wrong.

    Good luck with the appointment on friday.

    Let me know how you get on.

    Take care.



  • Hi Crusee

    That seems to be a rather comprehensive list. Well that's it then. If there is a problem with the kidneys I'm going to starve. Apart from potato crisps and snacks that is pretty much my staple diet.

    I reckon you are probably right and it's just a glitch but I'm not feeling great at the moment so a trip to the GP was always going to be on the cards. Just so long as they don't admit me again I'll be grateful.

    I'll update you as soon as I know what's going on.

    Thanks again for your kindness


  • Youre welcome.

    Anything to avoid hospital food.

    I even had an escape tunnel planned with my hubby but it hit a major snag when I discovered my ward was on 4 th floor of the hospital- a tunnel was never going to be the answer was it?-- lol

    Hope all goes well,on friday.



  • Hi buttonhater

    Fortunately, this is something I have not experienced .unfortunately,

    This means I can add nothing further to what's been said but to say that I hope your gp is able to put your mind at rest and that you begin to feel better soon.


  • Thank you Marie. That's really kind of you. I expect I'm fretting for nothing. Proper drama queen me.


  • Given the heavy meds we take, I would always err on the side of caution. Better to be safe than sorry.

    Best of luck

  • Thank you

  • I had a phone call from my GP a couple of years over this " are you ok?)' me "great" him "well pack a bag and go to A&E now, as your technically dead" "me "what" him but don't panic as if the blood is not kept properly it does give a false reading". So off to A&E and just fine.

    So don't panic this appears to be common but go to your GP and discuss any symptoms asap.

  • Oh bless your sweet heart Medway lady. I surely needed a giggle today and now I've had one. I expect you are right and it's just a blip. My appointment is on Friday with GO because there are some things I can't dilly dally over.

    Thank you


  • My GP is really nice and has a sense of humour and I like and trust him. I'm very lucky as not all are as caring and actually really take the time to explain stuff. I hope nothing is wrong and do tell how you get on. By the way the second test was one done whilst an inpatient as they didn't let me go home. But I felt great and I was certain I was ok. lol

  • I don't think I've seen the same Doctor twice yet and they have varied between kind and caring and downright perishing rude. We have lived here for four years and I really miss our old medical centre. Hi hum.

    As soon as I know what's going on I'll let you know.

    Thank you


  • Hi,

    My potassium levels are normally the higher end of normal 4+ and occasionally flick into a low high - around 5.9. But it's never been a worry. Sometimes a blood cell will rupture when blood is drawn and this releases its potassium into the sample taken giving a false high.

    The real culprits for potassium in the diet are bananas, artichokes, shellfish, dried peas/beans, milk, lo-salt substitutes (they use potassium instead of sodium), spinach, sweet potatoes and potatoes (particularly baked). All sports drinks and bars have it to replaced the potassium lost during exercising. Also a lot of 'diet' produce have added potassium.

    If my reading comes back high I am usually a 'good girl' and conciously eat lower potassium foods but then flick to my normal diet when the reading is back into the normal range. Luckily I don't eat much potatoes and I am allergic to shellfish but I like sweet pots and spinach - heyho can't win them all!! 😎

    Have a good day


  • Hi Ali. Many thanks for your kind response. This list of no-no foods gets longer and longer doesn't It? I am definitely going to starve and as I am already turning into a human twiglet this might not be pretty.

    Reckon I'll just assume all is well until proved otherwise.


  • High potassium can often be because the sample was taken incorrectly ie they took the full blood count tube 1st (it has some liquid in the tube that contains potassium), the sample was difficult to take so potassium leaks out of the red blood cells, it took to long too get to the lab or was stored incorrectly (in the fridge or near a radiator).

    The good news is you have had an urgent repeat thats fine. The urea, creatinine, sodium and calcium (if they did them) will help your dr decide if the high potassium was genuine or due to the reasons I've listed above.

    Jacey xXx

  • Hi Jacey

    Thank you for your kind response. Your explanation has helped soothe my fears a lot. Only diagnosed November last year I reckon I have a lot to learn.


  • No panic at all, Buttonhater. Same thing happened to me. Suddenly I had a high potassium reading. They did the test over and ... ta da ... it was still high. Thinking back on it, I recalled that several weeks earlier, I had got fed up with my aches and pains. I decided that enough was enough, and I allowed myself to take acetaminophen, which I usually use sparingly. I went to max dose, 24/7 and I felt much better. That's when I googled, and eventually found this: ehealthme.com/ds/tylenol/hi...

    I fit the profile: woman over 60, on acetaminophen for less than a month. I found the original research that the article was based on, and showed it to my nurse practitioner. She was slackjawed! I cut back on the acetaminophen, and all was resolved.

    Yes, there is an awful lot to learn, isn't there?

  • Hi seenie

    That's really good to know. Thank you so much for taking the time and trouble to give such a comprehensive answer. I don't usually take acetaminophen - I haven't seen it on sale here in the UK - but bought some on our last trip to the States. It's been sitting on the shelf tempting me to take it but I reckon it can go on sitting. Like you I'm a woman of over 60 and I can live without all those nasties that it can bring. Big hugs


  • Jan, in the UK it is called paracetamol.

  • And you are most welcome. ;-)

  • Hi seemie

    Once apon a time I had a brain. All gone, dear dear, never mind


  • I used to have one too. Mine does come back to visit every now and again, though. LOL

  • My potassium levels have been slowly going up since last October, after 2nd round of rituximab. Wonder if this is yet another biologic that doesn't like me.

You may also like...