Hyperkalemia is a common diagnosis. Fortunately, most patients who are diagnosed have mild hyperkalemia (which is usually well tolerated). However, any condition causing even mild hyperkalemia should be treated to prevent progression into more severe hyperkalemia. Extremely high levels of potassium in the blood (severe hyperkalemia) can lead to cardiac arrest and death. When not recognized and treated properly, severe hyperkalemia results in a high mortality rate.
Technically, hyperkalemia means an abnormally elevated level of potassium in the blood. The normal potassium level in the blood is 3.5-5.0 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L). Potassium levels between 5.1 mEq/L to 6.0 mEq/L reflect mild hyperkalemia. Potassium levels of 6.1 mEq/L to 7.0 mEq/L are moderate hyperkalemia, and levels above 7 mEq/L are severe hyperkalemia.
The major causes of hyperkalemia are kidney dysfunction, diseases of the adrenal gland, potassium shifting out of cells into the blood circulation, and medications. Hyperkalemia has been noted to occur spontaneously in patients with lupus nephritis. Hyperkalemia results from decreased or impaired potassium excretion – As observed with acute or chronic renal failure (most common), potassium-sparing diuretics, urinary obstruction, sickle cell disease, Addison disease, and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Even with 37 million Americans facing chronic kidney disease and millions more living with related ailments, it can sometimes be difficult to put a “face” to the disease. The truth is, kidney disease has many forms and even more faces. From the transplant recipient to the dialysis patient to the millions making proactive choices to prevent the onset or worsening of the disease – each of us has a unique place in the grand portrait of kidney health. And while each of us is as important as the next, there are some portraits you may recognize a little easier than others – these celebrities who are living (or should we say thriving) with kidney disease and related conditions.
During the year 2007 when she was diagnosed with lupus, Shannon Boxx was 30 and still playing for the U.S. National Soccer Team, with which she had won gold medals at the 2004 Athens Olympics, the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and the 2012 London Olympics.
Shannon Boxx mentions that she started feeling the symptoms of lupus, such as extreme fatigue and joint pain even in normal tasks, as early as 2002, but has kept it a secret. That was until slightly before the 2012 Olympics when she went public with her condition. Since disclosing her struggle in 2012, which gave her added strength and confidence in battling it, Boxx has been working hard to raise awareness about lupus and helping people to understand the symptoms. (May is Lupus Awareness Month.) She has been active with the Lupus Foundation of America as part of the mission toward finding a cure.
“The biggest thing is surrounding myself with support,” Boxx said. “I didn’t do it for so long on the national team, and when I did, there was such a big difference, a big relief.” Boxx says she is in remission but still has bad days. She is also busy as the mom to a 3-year-old and 6-month-old.
“They’ve made me realize that it’s more important now, more than ever, that I make sure I take care of myself, for them,” Boxx said. She listens to her body carefully and keeps open communication with her family and doctor about her symptoms. Since then, she has been working to raise awareness of the disease. She has also been working with the Lupus Foundation of America in an attempt to find a cure to the auto-immune disease.