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Acidosis is excessive acid in the body fluids.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

The kidneys and lungs maintain the body's acid/base (pH) balance. Acidosis occurs when acid builds up or bicarbonate (a base) is lost. The major categories of acidosis are respiratory acidosis and metabolic acidosis .

Respiratory acidosis develops when there is too much carbon dioxide (an acid) in the body, primarily caused by decreased breathing. Other names for this include hypercapnic acidosis and carbon dioxide acidosis.

There are several types of metabolic acidosis:

  • Diabetic acidosis (also called diabetic ketoacidosis and DKA) develops when ketone bodies build up during uncontrolled diabetes .
  • Hyperchloremic acidosis results from excessive loss of sodium bicarbonate from the body, as in severe diarrhea.
  • Lactic acidosis is a buildup of lactic acid . This can be caused by:
    • Alcohol
    • Cancer
    • Liver failure
    • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
    • Medications such as salicylates
    • Prolonged exercise
    • Prolonged lack of oxygen from shock, heart failure, or severe anemia
    • Seizures

Other causes of metabolic acidosis include:


See the specific types of acidosis.

Signs and tests:

An arterial blood gas analysis or a blood chemistry , such as a Chem-20, will confirm acidosis in most cases. Other tests may be needed to determine the cause of the acidosis.


Treatment depends on the cause. See the specific types of acidosis.

Support Groups:

Expectations (prognosis):

Acidosis can be dangerous if untreated. Many cases respond well to treatment.


See the specific types of acidosis.

Calling your health care provider:

Although there are several types of acidosis, all will cause symptoms that require treatment by your health care provider.


Preventing or treating the underlying causes may prevent some cases of acidosis.

Review Date: 11/12/2007
Reviewed By: Charles Silberberg, D.O., Private Practice specializing in Nephrology, Affiliated with NY Medical College, Division of Nephrology, Valhalla, NY. 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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