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Metabolic Acidosis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prognosis, Prevention

Acidosis- A medical condition in which the fluids present in the body start to develop increased amount of acidic content making the body fluids acidic. There are two types of Acidosis- Respiratory Acidosis and Metabolic Acidosis. Respiratory Acidosis occurs as a result of malfunction of lungs. Metabolic Acidosis occurs as a result of malfunction of the kidneys. In this article, we will look into about Metabolic Acidosis. We will look into the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of Metabolic Acidosis.

Metabolic Acidosis

How Is Metabolic Acidosis Defined?

As stated, Metabolic Acidosis is a medical disorder in which the body starts producing excessive amounts of acid and/or the kidneys are not able to remove enough acidic content from the body. If not corrected at the appropriate time, Metabolic Acidosis can lead to a medical condition called acidemia, in which pH scale in the blood gets low as a result of the kidneys being unable to form bicarbonates in the body.

Causes of Metabolic Acidosis

The amount of acid in the blood can is determined by measuring the pH. A lower value of the pH means that the blood is acidic and a higher value of pH means that the blood is basic. Ideal pH value in the blood should be around 7.5.

There are many processes in an individual’s body which produces acid. Usually, the lungs and the kidneys take care of the excess production of acid; however, if there is a malfunction of these organs it results in Acidosis.

As stated, Metabolic Acidosis begins in the kidneys. It develops when the kidneys are not able to discard excessive acid or in cases when they discard too much basic content from the body. Metabolic Acidosis is of three types:

  • Diabetic Acidosis: This occurs in poorly controlled diabetes patients. In this form, there is formation of excess ketones making the blood acidic.
  • Hyperchloremic Acidosis: This occurs as a result of loss of sodium bicarbonate. Sodium bicarbonate keeps the blood neutral i.e., neither acidic nor basic. Usually, this form of Metabolic Acidosis is caused by diarrhea and/or vomiting.
  • Lactic Acidosis: This form of Metabolic Acidosis occurs as a result of excessive amount of lactic acid in the body. There can be many factors which can result in excessive formation of lactic acid, some of which are excessive alcohol abuse, heart condition, cancer, liver dysfunction, prolonged oxygen deficiency, and hypoglycemia. There have been instances where increased strenuous exercise has led to increased lactic acid formation.

Some Other Causes Resulting In Development Of Metabolic Acidosis Are:

  • Consumption of a high fat and low carbohydrate diet
  • Kidney failure
  • Dehydration
  • Aspirin poisoning

Symptoms Of Metabolic Acidosis

  • Shallow breathing
  • Confusion
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Decreased appetite

Diagnosis Of Metabolic Acidosis

If an individual feels that he or she has Metabolic Acidosis, then immediate consultation with a physician is imperative. An early diagnosis of Metabolic Acidosis goes a long way in speeding up recovery.

To diagnose Metabolic Acidosis, the physician will order a series of blood draws. Checking ABG (Arterial Blood Gases) can reveal levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. It can also tell the pH level of the blood thus confirming whether there is increased acidic content in the blood. The physician may also order for a basic metabolic panel to look at the kidney function. Basic metabolic panel also gives the level of calcium, proteins, sugars, and electrolytes in the body. When all these tests are studies collectively, the diagnosis of Metabolic Acidosis can be confirmed.

In case if Metabolic Acidosis is felt to be present, then a urine sample will be required to make sure that the body is excreting acids and bases appropriately.

Treatment for Metabolic Acidosis

Treatment for Metabolic Acidosis

In order to formulate a treatment plan for an individual, first and foremost the treating physician should know the exact cause of Metabolic Acidosis. One of the common treatments for acidosis is giving sodium bicarbonate to elevate the pH levels in the blood, either orally or intravenously.

Each form of Metabolic Acidosis has its own form of treatment like individuals with Hyperchloremic Acidosis can be given sodium bicarbonate orally. Acidosis as a result of kidney dysfunction is usually treated with sodium citrate. Individuals with diabetes are treated with IV fluids and insulin for balancing of pH. Lactic acidosis is usually treated by supplementing bicarbonates, giving IV fluids, or antibiotics but the treatment depends on the actual cause of Metabolic Acidosis.

Prognosis of Metabolic Acidosis

Recovery from Metabolic Acidosis is dependent on the cause. Appropriate and timely treatment goes a long way in helping speed up recovery. Some people totally recover from Metabolic Acidosis whereas others may end up with some form of organ dysfunction, respiratory issues, and renal failure. Extreme acidosis can also result in shock and rarely death.

Prevention of Metabolic Acidosis

In order to prevent acidosis an individual may follow the following tips:

  • Appropriate hydration is imperative, so consumption of water other fluids is important.
  • If an individual is suffering from diabetes then blood sugar needs to be monitored closely.
  • Avoid alcohol.


  1. MedlinePlus. “Metabolic Acidosis.” MedlinePlus, https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000335.htm.
  2. WebMD. “Metabolic Acidosis.” WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-metabolic-acidosis#1.
Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:September 21, 2023

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