Hyperkalemia is caused by too much potassium in the blood. It can be life threatening because it affects heart function, and if untreated can cause the heart to stop. Because potassium also affects the nervous system and muscular work, too much can cause nausea, fatigue, muscle weakness or paralysis, or tingling sensation, usually in the extremities. Calcium can be used as an initial treatment at diagnosis to soothe the heart muscle and keep it from becoming arrhythmic
Calcium treatment of hyperkalemia not reduce levels of potassium in the blood. Rather, processes some of the hazardous symptoms caused by the condition by helping stabilize cellular membranes. Calcium treatment must be followed by treatments such as dialysis or insulin to reduce potassium levels and promote movement of potassium through the cells.
Calcium should be given as initial treatment for acute hyperkalemia. It begins to have an effect within 1 to 3 minutes, and the effect can last up to 60 minutes. This gives some time for treatment to begin to lower blood potassium levels should be managed. Usually, the calcium treatment followed by insulin, which stimulates the passage of potassium into the cells. This takes about 10 to 20 minutes to have an effect. Care must be taken to monitor blood sugar so that hypoglycemia not result. Some findings indicate that albuterol may work with insulin to stimulate Na-K ATPase pump.
According to an article by Walter A. Parhan, calcium gluconate is the preferred type of intravenous treatment with calcium. Calcium is an option, but should be used with caution because of the higher risk of calcium toxicity.
Calcium is an emergency treatment for hyperkalemia and should be followed up with long-term treatment that addresses the causes of increased potassium levels in the blood. This may be due to reduced renal function, or a change in diet. ‘Low-salt “products often use potassium chloride as an alternative to sodium chloride, these should be avoided. Foods with high potassium content such as bananas, avocados, broccoli, soybeans, garlic or apricots should be eaten in moderation, if at all.
Use of calcium to treat hyperkalemia should be closely monitored. Calcium toxicity is a danger too, and it can have a negative effect on patients taking digitalis derivatives to treat heart problems.