What are the symptoms and treatment options for metabolic acidosis?

Symptom Database

Metabolic acidosis is a condition characterized by an imbalance in the body’s acid-base levels, resulting in an excess of acid. This acid-base disorder can have various causes and can lead to a range of symptoms. Understanding the symptoms and treatment options for metabolic acidosis is crucial for managing and preventing this condition.

What is Metabolic Acidosis?

Metabolic acidosis occurs when there is an accumulation of acid or a loss of bicarbonate in the body. Bicarbonate is an important buffer that helps maintain the body’s pH balance. When the levels of acid increase or bicarbonate decreases, the pH of the blood becomes acidic, leading to metabolic acidosis.

Causes of Metabolic Acidosis

There are several potential causes of metabolic acidosis, including:

  • Diabetic ketoacidosis: This occurs in individuals with uncontrolled diabetes, where the body breaks down fat for energy, leading to the production of acidic ketones.
  • Lactic acidosis: This can result from conditions such as severe infections, liver disease, or certain medications.
  • Renal tubular acidosis: This is a rare condition where the kidneys are unable to effectively remove acid from the body.
  • Severe diarrhea: Loss of bicarbonate through excessive diarrhea can contribute to metabolic acidosis.

Symptoms of Metabolic Acidosis

The symptoms of metabolic acidosis can vary depending on the underlying cause and the severity of the condition. Common symptoms include:

  • Rapid breathing or shortness of breath
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Increased heart rate

In severe cases, metabolic acidosis can lead to shock or coma. It is important to seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms.

Treatment Options for Metabolic Acidosis

The treatment of metabolic acidosis focuses on addressing the underlying cause and restoring the body’s acid-base balance. The specific treatment options may vary depending on the individual and the severity of the condition.

Managing Underlying Conditions

If metabolic acidosis is caused by an underlying medical condition, such as diabetes or kidney disease, managing and treating that condition is essential. This may involve lifestyle changes, medication, or other interventions as recommended by a healthcare professional.

Bicarbonate Therapy

In some cases, bicarbonate therapy may be used to raise the levels of bicarbonate in the body and restore the acid-base balance. This can be administered orally or intravenously, depending on the severity of the condition.

Preventing Acidosis

Preventing metabolic acidosis involves addressing the risk factors and making lifestyle changes to maintain a healthy acid-base balance. Some tips for preventing acidosis include:

  • Maintaining a balanced diet: Consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help maintain proper acid-base balance.
  • Staying hydrated: Drinking an adequate amount of water can help prevent dehydration and maintain electrolyte balance.
  • Monitoring medication use: Some medications can contribute to metabolic acidosis, so it is important to discuss any concerns with a healthcare professional.
  • Managing chronic conditions: Proper management of conditions such as diabetes or kidney disease can help prevent metabolic acidosis.

It is important to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice and guidance on preventing and managing metabolic acidosis.


Metabolic acidosis is a condition characterized by an imbalance in the body’s acid-base levels, resulting in an excess of acid. It can have various causes and lead to symptoms such as rapid breathing, fatigue, and confusion. Treatment options for metabolic acidosis include managing underlying conditions, bicarbonate therapy, and preventive measures. By understanding the symptoms and treatment options, individuals can take steps to manage and prevent metabolic acidosis, promoting overall health and well-being.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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