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Maintaining an ideal equilibrium between acids and bases is vital for proper body functioning, known as acid-base balance, to ensure our blood pH remains within an acceptable range, usually 7.35-7.45. A slight imbalance can trigger metabolic acidosis – But what Is Metabolic Acidosis? 

It is a condition where our body accumulates excess acid or cannot eliminate it effectively – thus impacting both its causes, warning signs, and treatment options for metabolic acidosis. Read further into this topic to gain further understanding!

The Root of the Problem: What Are The Main Causes of Acidosis?

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Our body meticulously regulates acid-base balance through various mechanisms. However, several factors can disrupt this equilibrium, leading to metabolic acidosis. These factors can be broadly categorized into two main culprits:

1. Overproduction of Acids

Ketone Bodies

When glucose becomes scarce, your body starts breaking down fat for energy by breaking it down to form ketones that are acidic by nature – during periods when uncontrolled diabetes inhibits its use effectively this breakdown process may produce large volumes of ketones which contributes to acidosis called diabetic ketoacidosis resulting from excessive amounts.

Lactic Acid

Extended physical exertion or conditions that limit oxygen delivery to tissues such as heart failure or shock may result in increased production of lactic acid, typically cleared away by the liver via its detox system; however, excessive production may overwhelm this mechanism, leading to an accumulation of acidity known as “lactic acidosis.”


Certain medications, including aspirin at higher dosages or ingestion of methanol poison, can introduce excess acids into your bloodstream, contributing to metabolic acidosis.

2. Bicarbonate Loss 

Carbonate (HCO3-) is an integral buffer in our bodies, and its main task is to neutralize acids and keep the proper pH levels. Thus, it helps maintain the optimal health and fight against acidosis. If the dangerously low levels of H+ ions drop and acidosis develops rapidly – that could also cause death, in the end.

  • Kidney Problems: Because of this function, kidneys are a necessary organ for maintaining proper blood pH, by reabsorbing bicarbonate and eliminating greater acid levels. The kidneys impaired by CKD or other conditions tend to have a problem with the bicarbonate excretion and this leads to the acidification of the blood.
  • Diarrhea or Vomiting: Bicarbonate stores will be depleted by excessive fluid loss due to diarrhea and vomiting; this, in turn, can lead to metabolic acidosis in those who already have underlying medical conditions.

Warning Signs: What Are Indications of Metabolic Acidosis?

Frequently metabolic acidosis shows a complex of symptoms that may vary depending on the level of severity of the disease. Here are some common signs to watch out for:

General Symptoms

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Anorexia and feelings of nausea
  • Rapid breathing (Kussmaul breathing)
  • Disorientation and blurred thinking

Urinary Symptoms

If you experience episodes of frequent urination that appear to be the result of known risk factors like diabetes or kidney problems, an immediate medical evaluation is recommended.

How is Acidosis Diagnosed?

Early identification of metabolic acidosis is paramount to its prevention, with doctors typically employing multiple tests in their diagnosis: 

Blood Tests

  • Blood Gas Analysis: Measuring blood pH, carbon dioxide levels (pCO2) and bicarbonate concentration is the test that is used to indicate the acid-base balance.
  • Electrolyte Panel Assessments: These examinations of bicarbonate electrolytes, which can provide information about the kind of acidosis in your system, are their focus.

Urine Tests

Although not able to diagnose acidosis all alone, urine tests can provide more signs on the source of this condition as for case of ketone testing which is of significant importance to be under consideration if we talk about diabetic ketoacidosis.

Combatting Acidosis: Testing, Treating, and Preventing

Approaches for treating metabolic acidosis depend upon its root causes; here’s a breakdown of key strategies:

Treatment Strategies Regarding Acidosis

  • Correct the Underlying Condition: To effectively combat acidosis, treatment must be forwarded to its origin – be that regulating diabetes with insulin shots, fighting infections that increase acid production, or dealing with kidney failure.
  • Restore Bicarbonate Levels: Intravenous fluids or medications are possibly the way to restore the bicarbonate level when acid-base imbalances occur and this can be corrected by correcting an acidosis/alkalosis problem.

Vitality of Early Detection and Treatment

Uncontrolled metabolic acidosis can lead to severe medical conditions that finally may end in coma and death; we should diagnose and work on this condition very fast to minimize the occurrence of such results.

Preventive Measures

As metabolic acidosis risk factors may not always be within our control, there are steps you can take to minimize them:

  • Maintain Good Diabetes Control: People suffering from diabetes, need more than medication for their treatment plan. They need to control their diet as well. If that is not done rightly, adverse effects like ketoacidosis may follow, and that could be dangerous.
  • Stay Hydrated: Ample hydration helps the body keep the salts in balance and stability of blood volume as well as acid elimination. And this means good kidney performance.
  • Seek Medical Advice If Concerns Arise: Do not hesitate to see a doctor as soon as possible if the presence of any signs and symptoms indicate metabolic acidosis.

Read more: How common is death during dialysis?

When to Seek Medical Attention?

Acidosis can range from mild cases to life-threatening. While some individuals may not show any symptoms at first, if any of the following occur medical help must be sought immediately:

  • Rapid breathing: It could indicate that your body is trying to eliminate excess acid through the expulsion of carbon dioxide via breathing.
  • Confusion or mental fog: Acidosis may cause disorders of the brain functions which can result in confusion, disorientation, or memory impairment.
  • Severe Fatigue and Weakness: Acidosis impairs the function of the body and as a result, the body is worn out and very weak.
  • Nausea and Vomiting: Your system may be seeking to get rid of extra acidity by way of vomiting as an innate defensive reflex.
  • Loss of Appetite: Acidosis impairs digestion and leads to the loss of appetite, headache, and other painful symptoms.
  • Headache: Since there is an imbalance of body chemistry, the condition of acidosis may cause headaches as a response too.

Seek medical attention at once if you have factors that contribute to metabolic acidosis, like uncontrolled diabetes and kidney diseases, and are feeling weak, dizzy, or nauseous. Earlier detection and treatment can improve the outcomes related to metabolic acidosis!

The Key Elements of Metabolic Acidosis

  • In essence, metabolic acidosis takes place if your blood turns too acidic because of an imbalance between acids and bases.
  • It could be due to many reasons such as diabetes, renal problems, or the use of drugs to manage them.
  • The signs include increased breathing rate, dizziness, weakness, and vomiting.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and seeking medical assistance:

  • A balanced diet falls into the group of preventative measures that can largely preclude uncontrolled diabetes which is one of the trigger causes of metabolic acidosis.
  • In case you face any of these symptoms, don’t hesitate to visit a doctor as soon as possible.

Early diagnosis and treatment will prevent the condition from becoming worse, so to avoid this, one should get professional advice from medical practitioners like Dr Bismah Irfan!