The key difference between hyperkalemia and hypokalemia is that hyperkalemia is an electrolyte disorder in which the potassium level in the blood is higher than the normal, while hypokalemia is an electrolyte disorder in which the potassium level in the blood is lower than the normal.-
An electrolyte disorder occurs when the levels of electrolytes in the human body are either high or lower than the normal level. Electrolytes should be maintained at a normal level for a body to function properly and healthily. The imbalance of electrolytes can cause various problems in vital body systems. Electrolytes disorders are due to an imbalance of electrolytes such as calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphate, potassium, and sodium. Hyperkalemia and hypokalemia are two electrolyte disorders due to the imbalance of potassium in the human body.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Hyperkalemia
3. What is Hypokalemia
4. Similarities – Hyperkalemia and Hypokalemia
5. Hyperkalemia vs Hypokalemia in Tabular Form
6. Summary – Hyperkalemia vs Hypokalemia
What is Hyperkalemia?
Hyperkalemia is an electrolyte disorder that involves a high potassium level in the blood than normal. Potassium is a chemical that is very important for the function of nerve and muscle cells of vital organs, including the heart. The normal level of potassium in the blood is around 3.6 to 5.2 millimoles per liter (mmol/L). If a patient has a blood potassium level higher above 6 mmol/L, this condition is usually defined as a hyperkalemia state. This can be dangerous and normally requires immediate patient management.
The most common cause of high potassium is related to kidney conditions such as acute kidney failure and chronic kidney disease. Other causes include Addison’s disease, angiotensin II receptor blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, beta-blockers, dehydration, destruction of red blood cells due to severe injury, excessive use of potassium supplements, and type I diabetes. Moreover, symptoms of hyperkalemia include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, or vomiting.
This condition can be diagnosed through blood tests, urine tests, and electrocardiograms (ECG or EKG). The treatment options include going on a low potassium diet, stopping medications contributing to hyperkalemia, taking medications to lower potassium levels (diuretics such as water pills), dialysis, taking potassium binders (patiromer, sodium polystyrene sulfonate, and sodium zirconium cyclosilicate).
What is Hypokalemia?
Hypokalemia is an electrolyte disorder that involves a low potassium level in the blood than normal. A very low blood potassium level below 2.5 mmol/L is defined as a hypokalemia state. The causes may include using water pills or diuretics as medications, vomiting, diarrhoea, not getting enough potassium from the diet, alcohol use, chronic kidney disease, diabetic ketoacidosis, excessive laxative use, excessive sweating, folic acid deficiency, primary aldosteronism, and some antibiotic use.
The symptoms of hypokalemia may include muscle twitches, muscle cramps or weakness, muscles that are not moving, kidney problems, respiratory failure, muscle tissue breakdown, ileus (lazy bowels), and abnormal heart rhythms. This condition can be diagnosed through blood tests, urine tests, imaging techniques (MRI, CT scan, or ultrasound), and electrocardiogram (EKG). Furthermore, the treatment options for hypokalemia include taking potassium supplements and potassium tablets, injecting potassium intravenously, consuming potassium-rich diets, and stopping usage of diuretics.
What are the Similarities Between Hyperkalemia and Hypokalemia?
- Hyperkalemia and hypokalemia are two electrolyte disorders.
- They are due to an imbalance of potassium in the human body.
- Both medical conditions may be due to a kidney problem.
- They can be diagnosed through similar methods such as blood tests, urine tests, or electrocardiograms.
- Both medical conditions can be treated by managing the diets.
What is the Difference Between Hyperkalemia and Hypokalemia?
Hyperkalemia describes a high potassium level in the blood than the normal, while hypokalemia describes a low potassium level in the blood than the normal. Thus, this is the key difference between hyperkalemia and hypokalemia. Furthermore, hyperkalemia occurs when blood potassium level goes passing 6 mmol/L, while hypokalemia occurs when blood potassium level goes below 2.5mmol/L.
The below infographic presents the differences between hyperkalemia and hypokalemia in tabular form for side by side comparison.
Summary – Hyperkalemia vs Hypokalemia
Electrolyte disorders occur due to an imbalance of electrolytes in the human body. Hyperkalemia and hypokalemia are two electrolyte disorders. Hyperkalemia refers to a high potassium level in the blood than normal. Hypokalemia refers to a low potassium level in the blood than normal. So, this is the key difference between hyperkalemia and hypokalemia.
1. “High Potassium (Hyperkalemia).” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.
2. “Hypokalemia (Low Potassium): Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment.” WebMD.
1. “ECG demonstrating hyperkalemia with absent P waves” By Ecgtocardiology – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “LowKECG” By James Heilman, MD – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
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