What is Acidosis?

Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment


Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Acidosis is a medical condition characterised by an imbalance in the body's pH levels, resulting in an excess of acid in bodily fluids. This condition stands in contrast to alkalosis, where there is an excess of base in the body fluids. Maintaining the proper balance of acids and bases is crucial for overall health, and disruptions in this balance can lead to various health issues.

Causes of Acidosis

The kidneys and lungs play vital roles in regulating the body's pH levels. Acidosis can occur when there is an accumulation of acid or a loss of bicarbonate, a base, in the body. There are two primary types of acidosis: respiratory and metabolic.

Respiratory Acidosis

This type develops when there is an excessive buildup of carbon dioxide, an acid, in the body due to inadequate removal through breathing. Various factors can contribute to respiratory acidosis, including chest deformities, lung diseases, neuromuscular disorders, and acute lung conditions such as pneumonia or respiratory distress syndrome.

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Metabolic Acidosis

This occurs when there is an overproduction of acid in the body or when the kidneys are unable to effectively remove acid from the bloodstream. Causes of metabolic acidosis include diabetic ketoacidosis, kidney diseases, hyperchloremic acidosis, lactic acidosis, poisoning, severe dehydration, and certain medical conditions like liver failure or sepsis.


The symptoms of acidosis can vary depending on its type and underlying cause. In metabolic acidosis, rapid and deep breathing, confusion, headache, and lethargy are common symptoms. Respiratory acidosis symptoms may include confusion, fatigue, shortness of breath, coughing, vomiting, high heart rate and sleepiness. Severe cases of metabolic acidosis can lead to shock or even death.


Diagnosing acidosis involves a combination of physical examinations and diagnostic tests. Healthcare providers may conduct arterial or venous blood gas analysis, basic metabolic panels, blood ketone tests, lactic acid tests, and urine analysis to determine the type and cause of acidosis. Additional imaging tests like chest X-rays or CT scans may also be required.


Treatment for acidosis aims to address the underlying health issue causing the imbalance in pH levels. In some cases, sodium bicarbonate may be administered to reduce blood acidity, along with intravenous fluids to restore electrolyte balance. The specific treatment approach will depend on the type and severity of acidosis and the individual's overall health.

Outlook and Complications

The prognosis for acidosis varies depending on its cause and severity. Prompt treatment can often lead to favourable outcomes, but untreated acidosis can pose significant health risks. Complications of acidosis can include organ damage, shock, and even death if left untreated.

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When to Seek Medical Attention and Prevention

If you experience symptoms of acidosis, it is essential to seek medical attention. Preventing acidosis depends on addressing underlying health conditions and maintaining overall wellness.

Many cases of metabolic acidosis can be prevented through proper management of conditions like diabetes and kidney disease, while respiratory acidosis prevention may involve managing lung conditions and avoiding respiratory depressants.

In conclusion, acidosis is a serious medical condition that requires prompt diagnosis and treatment. Understanding its causes, symptoms, and treatment options is essential for managing this condition and maintaining optimal health. Consulting a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and management is crucial for individuals experiencing symptoms suggestive of acidosis.

The information provided on this platform is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
The authors and creators of this platform do not endorse or recommend any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or emergency services immediately.
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