Milk-alkali syndrome is an acquired condition in which there are high levels of calcium (hypercalcemia ) and a shift in the body's acid/base balance towards alkaline (metabolic alkalosis ).
Causes, incidence, and risk factors:
Milk-alkali syndrome is caused by excessive consumption of milk (which is high in calcium) and certain antacids, especially calcium carbonate or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), over a long period of time.
Calcium deposits in the kidneys and other tissues can occur in milk-alkali syndrome. Consumption of vitamin D, which is often added to milk bought at the supermarket, can worsen this condition.
In the past, milk-alkali syndrome was often a side effect of treating peptic ulcer disease. It is rarely seen today, because newer, better medications are available for treating ulcers.
The condition often has no symptoms (asymptomatic). When symptoms do occur, they are often related to complications, such as kidney problems.
- Back and loin pain (related to kidney stones)
- Excessive urination
- Other problems that can result from kidney failure
Signs and tests:
Calcium deposits within the tissue of the kidney (nephrocalcinosis) may be seen on:
- Computed tomography (CT scans )
Other tests used to make a diagnosis:
Treatment involves reducing or eliminating milk and antacids. If severe kidney failure has occurred, the damage may be irreparable.
This condition is often reversible if kidney function remains normal. Severe prolonged cases may lead to permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis .
The most common complications include:
- Calcium deposits in tissues (calcinosis)
- Kidney failure
- Kidney stones
Calling your health care provider:
Contact your health care provider if:
- You drink large amounts of milk and you often use antacids.
- You have any symptoms that might suggest kidney problems.
Milk-alkali syndrome is now very uncommon because non-antacid treatments for indigestion, gastric ulcers, and peptic ulcer disease have replaced most excessive antacid use.
If you do use antacids often, don't drink large amounts of milk, and tell your doctor about your digestive problems.