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J Diabet Complications. 1990 Jan-Mar;4(1):3-7.

Hyperkalemia in diabetes mellitus.

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Department of Medicine, SUNY, Health Science Center, Brooklyn 11203.


Potassium filtered at the glomerulus is almost completely reabsorbed before the distal tubule; it must therefore be secreted into the collecting duct. The rate of potassium secretion is determined by a number of factors, notably aldosterone, distal sodium delivery, and serum potassium. Normal serum potassium is maintained by the interplay of passive leak of potassium from the cells and its active return to the cells. Transmembrane potassium distribution is influenced largely by acid-base equilibrium and hormones including insulin and catecholamines. In the diabetic with ketoacidosis hyperkalemia, in the face of potassium depletion, is attributable to reduced renal function, acidosis, release of potassium from cells due to glycogenolysis, and lack of insulin. Chronic hyperkalemia in diabetics is most often attributable to hyporeninemic hypoaldosteronism but other conditions including urinary tract obstruction may also contribute. A variety of clinical situations (e.g., volume depletion) and drugs (e.g., nonsteroidal antiinflammatory agents, and heparin) may acutely provoke hyperkalemia in susceptible individuals.

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