Metabolic acidosis

Definition

Metabolic acidosis is a condition in which there is too much acid in the body fluids.

Causes

Metabolic acidosis develops when too much acid is produced in the body. It can also occur when the kidneys cannot remove enough acid from the body. There are several types of metabolic acidosis:

Lactic acidosis results from a buildup of lactic acid. Lactic acid is mainly produced in muscle cells and red blood cells. It forms when the body breaks down carbohydrates to use for energy when oxygen levels are low. It can be caused by:

Symptoms

Most symptoms are caused by the underlying disease or condition that is causing the metabolic acidosis. Metabolic acidosis itself most often causes rapid breathing. Acting confused or very tired may also occur. Severe metabolic acidosis can lead to shock or death. In some situations, metabolic acidosis can be a mild, ongoing (chronic) condition.

Exams and Tests

These tests can help diagnose acidosis. They can also determine whether the cause is a breathing problem or a metabolic problem. Tests may include:

Other tests may be needed to determine the cause of the acidosis.

Treatment

Treatment is aimed at the health problem causing the acidosis. In some cases, sodium bicarbonate (the chemical in baking soda) may be given to reduce the acidity of the blood. Often, you will receive lots of fluids through your vein.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The outlook will depend on the underlying disease causing the condition.

Possible Complications

Very severe metabolic acidosis can lead to shock or death.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Seek medical help if you have symptoms of any disease that can cause metabolic acidosis.

Prevention

Diabetic ketoacidosis can be prevented by keeping type 1 diabetes under control.


Review Date: 9/24/2019
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

This information should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. © 1997- 2007 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.