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What is acidosis?

Acidosis is a condition in which there is too much acid in the body fluids. Acidosis occurs when your kidneys and lungs can’t keep your body’s pH in balance. Many of the body’s processes produce acid. The two types of acidosis are metabolic and respiratory.

The acidity of your blood is measured by determining its pH. A lower pH means that your blood is more acidic, while a higher pH means that your blood is more basic. While seemingly slight, these differences in numbers can be serious. Acidosis can lead to numerous health issues, and it can even be life-threatening.

How common is acidosis?

Acidosis is extremely common. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of acidosis?

Both respiratory and metabolic acidosis share many symptoms. However, the symptoms of acidosis vary based on its cause.

Some of the common symptoms of respiratory acidosis include the following:

  • Fatigue or drowsiness
  • Becoming tired easily
  • Confusion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sleepiness
  • Headache

Some of the common symptoms of metabolic acidosis include the following:

  • Rapid and shallow breathing
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Sleepiness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Jaundice
  • Increased heart rate
  • Breath that smells fruity, which is a sign of diabetic acidosis (ketoacidosis)

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes acidosis?

Respiratory acidosis occurs when too much CO2 builds up in the body. Normally the lungs remove CO2 while you breathe. However, sometimes your body can’t get rid of enough CO2. This may happen because of:

  • Chronic airway conditions, like asthma
  • Injury to the chest
  • Obesity, which can make breathing difficult
  • Sedative misuse
  • Overuse of alcohol
  • Muscle weakness in the chest
  • Problems with the nervous system
  • Deformed chest structure

Metabolic acidosis starts in the kidneys instead of the lungs. It occurs when they can’t eliminate enough acid or when they get rid of too much base. There are three major forms of metabolic acidosis:

  • Diabetic acidosis occurs in people with diabetes that’s poorly controlled. If your body lacks enough insulin, ketones build up in your body and acidify your blood.
  • Hyperchloremic acidosis results from a loss of sodium bicarbonate. This base helps to keep the blood neutral. Both diarrhea and vomiting can cause this type of acidosis.
  • Lactic acidosis occurs when there’s too much lactic acid in your body. Many things can cause a buildup of lactic acid. These include chronic alcohol use, heart failure, cancer, seizures, liver failure, prolonged lack of oxygen, and low blood sugar. Even prolonged exercise can lead to lactic acid buildup.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for acidosis?

There are many risk factors for acidosis, such as:

  • A high-fat diet that’s low in carbohydrates
  • Kidney failure
  • Obesity
  • Dehydration
  • Aspirin or methanol poisoning
  • Diabetes

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is acidosis diagnosed?

The health care provider will perform a physical examination and ask about your symptoms.

Laboratory tests that may be ordered include:

  • Arterial blood gas analysis
  • Electrolytes test, such as a basic metabolic panel to confirm acidosis and show whether it is metabolic or respiratory acidosis.

If you’re diagnosed with respiratory acidosis, your doctor will want to check the health of your lungs. This may involve a chest X-ray or a pulmonary function test.

If metabolic acidosis is suspected, you’ll need to give a urine sample. Doctors will check the pH to see if you are properly eliminating acids and bases. Additional tests may be needed to determine the cause of your acidosis.

How is acidosis treated?

Doctors usually need to know what is causing your acidosis to determine how to treat it. However, some treatments can be used for any type of acidosis. For example, your doctor may give you sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to raise the pH of your blood. This can be done either by mouth or in an intravenous (IV) drip. The treatment for other types of acidosis can involve treating their cause.

Respiratory acidosis

Treatments for this condition are usually designed to help your lungs. For example, you may be given drugs to dilate your airway. You might also be given oxygen or a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. The CPAP device can help you breathe if you have an obstructed airway or muscle weakness.

Metabolic acidosis

The specific types of metabolic acidosis each have their own treatments. People with hyperchloremic acidosis may be given oral sodium bicarbonate. Acidosis from kidney failure may be treated with sodium citrate. Diabetics with ketoacidosis receive IV fluids and insulin to balance out their pH. Lactic acidosis treatment might include bicarbonate supplements, IV fluids, oxygen, or, antibiotics, depending on the cause.

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage acidosis?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with Acidosis:

  • Take sedatives as prescribed and never mix them with alcohol.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking can damage your lungs and make breathing less effective.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity can make it harder for you to breathe.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and other fluids.
  • Keep control of your diabetes. If you manage your blood sugar levels well, you can avoid ketoacidosis.
  • Stop drinking alcohol. Chronic drinking can increase the buildup of lactic acid.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: June 26, 2017 | Last Modified: June 26, 2017

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