Potassium (K) in Blood
A potassium test checks how much potassium is in the blood. Potassium is an Reference electrolyte Opens New Window and mineral.
The normal values listed here—called a reference range—are just a guide. These ranges vary from lab to lab, and your lab may have a different range for what's normal. Your lab report should contain the range your lab uses. Also, your doctor will evaluate your results based on your health and other factors. This means that a value that falls outside the normal values listed here may still be normal for you or your lab.
Blood potassium levels also vary with age.
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3.4–4.7 mEq/L or 3.4–4.7 mmol/L
4.1–5.3 mEq/L or 4.1–5.3 mmol/L
3.7–5.9 mEq/L or 3.7–5.9 mmol/L
Many conditions can affect potassium levels. Your doctor will talk with you about any abnormal results that may be related to your symptoms and past health.
- High blood potassium levels may be caused by damage or injury to the kidneys. This prevents the kidneys from removing potassium from the blood normally.
- High blood potassium levels can also be caused by conditions that move potassium from the body's cells into the blood. These conditions include severe burns, crushing injuries, Reference heart attack Opens New Window, and Reference diabetic ketoacidosis Opens New Window.
- Taking too many potassium supplements can also cause high levels of potassium in the blood.
- Too much acid (Reference pH Opens New Window) in the blood makes potassium levels higher by causing the potassium in the body's cells to "leak" out of cells and into the blood.
- Some medicines, such as aldosterone antagonists and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, can cause high potassium levels.
- Low blood potassium levels can be caused by high levels of aldosterone (hyperaldosteronism) made by the Reference adrenal glands Opens New Window.
- Other conditions that can cause low blood potassium levels include severe burns, Reference cystic fibrosis Opens New Window, alcoholism, Reference Cushing's syndrome Opens New Window, dehydration, malnutrition, vomiting, diarrhea and certain kidney diseases, such as Bartter's syndrome. Bartter's syndrome is a condition characterized by enlargement of certain kidney cells. It is more common in children and may be linked to an abnormally short stature (dwarfism). The cause of Bartter's syndrome is not fully known.
- Medicines, such as Reference diuretics Opens New Window, are a common cause of low potassium levels.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference September 4, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Reference Avery L. Seifert, MD - Urology