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Insulin production and diabetes
Insulin production and diabetes


Metabolic acidosis is a disturbance in the body's acid-base balance that results in excessive acidity of the blood.

Alternative Names:

Acidosis - metabolic

Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

Metabolic acidosis can occur as a result of many different conditions such as kidney failure , diabetic ketoacidosis , and shock.

Swallowing toxic substances such as antifreeze or excessive amounts of aspirin can also lead to metabolic acidosis.

Severe metabolic acidosis may lead to shock or death. In some situations, metabolic acidosis can be a mild, chronic condition.


Most symptoms are caused by the disease or condition that is causing the metabolic acidosis. Metabolic acidosis itself usually causes rapid breathing. Confusion or lethargy may also occur.

Signs and tests:

Blood tests to diagnose metabolic acidosis may include:

  • An arterial blood gas to assess the severity of the metabolic acidosis
  • A metabolic panel to reveal the cause and severity of the metabolic acidosis
  • A complete blood count (CBC) to assess possible causes of metabolic acidosis


Treatment is aimed at the underlying condition. In certain circumstances, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) may be given to improve the acidity of the blood.

Support Groups:

Expectations (prognosis):

The prognosis of metabolic acidosis depends on the underlying disease.


When very severe, metabolic acidosis can lead to shock or death.

Calling your health care provider:

Seek medical treatment if symptoms of any disease that causes metabolic acidosis appear.


Keeping type 1 diabetes under control may help prevent many cases of metabolic acidosis.


Judge BS. Metabolic acidosis: differentiating the causes in the poisoned patient. Med Clin North Am. 2005; 89(6):1107-1124.

Kraut JA. Metabolic acidosis of CKD: diagnosis, clinical characteristics, and treatment. Am J Kidney Dis. 2005; 45(6): 978-993.

Review Date: 10/24/2007
Reviewed By: Robert Hurd, MD, Professor of Endocrinology, Department of Biology, Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH, and physician in the Primary Care Clinic, Cincinnati Veterans Administration Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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