Acidosis: A Deep Dive into Acid-Base Imbalances

Shivendra Pratap Singh


High Court Lucknow

Medico Legal

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Published on: 12 Aug, 2023

Acidosis refers to a condition where there’s an excessive acid in the body fluids, leading to a decrease in the pH of the blood. This condition can have significant physiological effects and requires appropriate medical attention.

1. Types of Acidosis:

  • Metabolic Acidosis: It occurs when the body produces too much acid or when the kidneys aren’t removing enough acid from the body.
  • Respiratory Acidosis: It arises when the lungs can’t remove enough carbon dioxide (CO2) from the body, leading to an accumulation and, consequently, acidosis.

2. Causes:

Metabolic Acidosis:

  • Kidney Disease: Reduced ability of the kidneys to excrete acid or conserve bicarbonate.
  • Lactic Acidosis: Excess lactic acid production, often due to conditions like sepsis, heart failure, or certain medications.
  • Diabetic Ketoacidosis: Seen in uncontrolled diabetes where the body produces excess ketones.
  • Toxins: Intake of substances like methanol, ethylene glycol, or aspirin.

Respiratory Acidosis:

3. Symptoms:

  • Fatigue or Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Headache
  • Sleepiness
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Palpitations

4. Diagnosis:

  • Arterial Blood Gas (ABG) Analysis: Directly measures the acidity (pH) and the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood.
  • Electrolyte Panel: Can help identify causes of metabolic acidosis like kidney disease.
  • Chest X-ray or CT scan: Useful for identifying respiratory causes.

5. Treatment:

  • Treat the Underlying Cause: For metabolic acidosis, this may involve rehydration in diabetic ketoacidosis, dialysis in kidney failure, or specific antidotes for toxins. In respiratory acidosis, treatments can range from bronchodilators for asthma to mechanical ventilation in severe cases.
  • Bicarbonate Supplements: For metabolic acidosis to neutralize excess acid.

6. Complications:

  • Shock or Organ Failure: Particularly in lactic acidosis or severe cases of acidosis.
  • Bone Loss: Chronic acidosis can release calcium from the bones.
  • Growth Retardation: Chronic acidosis in children can impair growth.

7. Prevention:

  • Manage Chronic Conditions: Regular medical check-ups, especially for individuals with diabetes, kidney disease, or respiratory conditions.
  • Avoid Toxin Exposure: Limiting the intake of substances known to induce acidosis.
  • Medication Adherence: Taking prescribed drugs as directed, especially those for chronic conditions.


Acidosis, while a complex medical condition, can be managed effectively with the right interventions. A good understanding of its causes and manifestations, especially for those at risk, can lead to timely treatment and better outcomes. As always, prevention and early detection are key.


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