Metabolic acidosis is a condition in which there is too much acid in the body fluids.
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:
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.
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 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.
The outlook will depend on the underlying disease causing the condition.
Very severe metabolic acidosis can lead to shock or death.
Seek medical help if you have symptoms of any disease that can cause metabolic acidosis.
Diabetic ketoacidosis can be prevented by keeping type 1 diabetes under control.
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.