Your blood contains many substances that help your body function. To function properly, your blood keeps a balance between substances that are acidic and substances that are alkaline (base). Normally, your body naturally maintains this balance, called your blood pH level.
However, certain health conditions and substances can upset this balance. If your blood has too much acid or too little base in it, you may develop metabolic acidosis. Alcohol, aspirin and poisons, like carbon monoxide or cyanide, can all cause your body to make too much acid. Conditions like kidney disease or Type 1 diabetes can also affect how acidic your blood is.
If your blood has too much base, you may develop metabolic alkalosis. This can happen if you lose too much acid due to using diuretics, vomiting, or if your adrenal gland is overactive.
What are the symptoms of metabolic acidosis and alkalosis?
If you have metabolic acidosis, you may have no symptoms. However, most people experience nausea, vomiting and fatigue (feeling tired and weak.) You may also start to breathe deeper and faster. These symptoms can get worse the longer you experience acidosis. Without treatment, you acidosis can lead to shock, coma or even death.
Metabolic alkalosis, on the other hand, can cause irritability, muscle cramps and twitches. If left untreated, you can experience long-term muscle spasms.
How are metabolic acidosis and alkalosis treated?
Doctors can diagnose acidosis and alkalosis with a blood test. The blood test shows if your body’s pH levels are out of balance.
Your doctor will design a treatment for your acidosis or alkalosis based on what caused the condition. For instance, if Type 1 diabetes led to diabetic ketoacidosis, your doctor will use insulin to balance out your blood sugar and get rid of excess acid in your blood. You may need dialysis if your kidneys aren’t working properly or if you need acidic substances removed from your blood.
To treat alkalosis, your doctor will give you plenty of water and electrolytes. They will also treat any underlying adrenal gland conditions or the cause of your vomiting.