Most symptoms are caused by the underlying disease or condition that is causing the metabolic acidosis. Metabolic acidosis itself usually causes rapid breathing. Confusion or lethargy may also occur. Severe metabolic acidosis can lead to shock or death. In some situations, metabolic acidosis can be a mild, chronic (ongoing) condition.
Exams and Tests
Arterial blood gas
Arterial blood gas analysis and a serum electrolytes test (such as a basic metabolic panel) will confirm acidosis is present and determine whether it is respiratory acidosis or metabolic acidosis.
Other test may be needed to determine the cause of the acidosis.
Treatment is aimed at the underlying condition. In some cases, sodium bicarbonate (the chemical in baking soda) may be given to reduce the acidity of the blood.
The outlook will depend on the underlying disease causing the condition.
Very severe metabolic acidosis can lead to shock or death.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Seek medical help if you have symptoms of any disease that can cause metabolic acidosis.
Diabetic ketoacidosis can be prevented by keeping type 1 diabetes under control.
David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.