Potassium - Normal Range

A normal range for potassium is between 3.6 and 5.2 millimoles per liter (mmol/L) of blood.

High potassium levels (hyperkalemia) may be seen in conditions such as:

  • Kidney disease
  • Addison disease
  • Injury to tissue
  • Infection
  • Diabetes
  • Dehydration
  • Consuming too much potassium (for example, fruits are particularly high in potassium, so excessive intake of fruits or juices may contribute to high potassium)
  • In patients on intravenous (IV) fluids, excessive IV potassium
  • Certain drugs can also cause high potassium in a small percent of people; among them are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), ACE inhibitors, beta blockers (such as propanolol and atenolol), angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (such as captopril, enalapril, and lisinopril), and potassium-sparing diuretics (such as triamterene, amiloride, and spironolactone).

Low potassium levels (hypokalemia) may be seen in conditions such as:

  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Conn syndrome (hyperaldosteronism)
  • A complication of acetaminophen overdose
  • In diabetes, the potassium level may fall after someone takes insulin, particularly if the person has not managed his or her diabetes well.
  • Low potassium is commonly due to “water pills” (potassium-wasting diuretics); if someone is taking these, their healthcare provider will check their potassium level regularly.
  • Additionally, certain drugs such as corticosteroids, beta-adrenergic agonists such as isoproterenol, alpha-adrenergic antagonists such as clonidine, antibiotics such as gentamicin and carbenicillin, and the antifungal agent amphotericin B can cause loss of potassium.

Potassium urine concentrations must be evaluated in association with blood levels. The body normally eliminates excess potassium, so the concentration in the urine may be elevated because it is elevated in the blood. It may also be elevated in the urine when the body is losing too much potassium; in this case, the blood level would be normal to low. If blood potassium levels are low due to insufficient intake, then urine concentrations will also be low.

  • Decreased urinary potassium levels may be due to certain drugs such as NSAIDs, beta blockers, and lithium or due to the adrenal glands producing too little of the hormone aldosterone.
  • Increased urinary potassium levels may be due to kidney disease, eating disorders such as anorexia, or muscle damage.
* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.