Metabolic Acidosis

Metabolic Acidosis: Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis

Metabolic acidosis is a condition that occurs when the body produces excessive amounts of acid or when the kidneys are not able to effectively remove acid from the body. This condition can cause changes in blood pH and is a serious medical issue that should be addressed promptly.


Metabolic acidosis is usually caused by a deficiency of bicarbonate ion or an overproduction of acids. The most common causes are:

  • Diabetic ketoacidosis – a problem that affects people with diabetes when their bodies do not produce enough insulin to break down glucose, resulting in the body breaking down fat instead.
  • Lactic acidosis – a condition caused by the buildup of lactic acid in the blood due to certain medications, sepsis, or severe illnesses.
  • Renal failure – the kidneys are unable to remove acids efficiently, leading to an accumulation of acid in the blood.
  • Drugs – certain medications, such as aspirin and narcotics, can cause an imbalance in the body’s acid-base balance.
  • Alcohol – chronic alcohol consumption can lead to an accumulation of acids in the body.


The symptoms of metabolic acidosis can vary from person to person, but the most common signs include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rapid heart rate


Metabolic acidosis can be diagnosed by testing the blood for an elevation of acid levels and by testing for a deficiency of bicarbonate ions. Blood tests, as well as urine tests, can help to determine the underlying cause.

In some cases, a specialist may recommend a more thorough analysis, such as a genetic test, to determine the underlying cause of the condition.


Treatment for metabolic acidosis will depend on the underlying cause and how serious the condition is. In some cases, the body can naturally correct the acid-base imbalance without any need for medical intervention. In such cases, it is important to follow a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise and a balanced diet.

If the body is unable to correct the imbalance itself, medical intervention may be necessary. Treatment usually involves restoring the balance of electrolytes and fluids in the body. In severe cases, medication or a liquid diet may be recommended.