What Are the Different Metabolic Acidosis Symptoms?

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  • Written By: S. Berger
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2018
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Organ systems in the body rely on a careful balance of acids and bases to function properly. Disruptions to these systems can result in an abnormal increase in acidity within bodily tissue, known as metabolic acidosis. Whether certain processes are producing too much acid, or organs like the kidneys are not sufficiently clearing this acid from the body, metabolic acidosis symptoms can result. Signs of this condition tend to be broad, ranging from nausea and vomiting to respiratory symptoms or even shock; these varying indicators could signal a variety of disease states, making the detection of this acid imbalance difficult, at times.

Metabolic acidosis symptoms usually include hyperventilation and shortness of breath. These breathing difficulties come about because the excess acids can cause nerves to send signals to the brain, which state that the body needs more oxygen. In turn, the body may use shallow, rapid breaths to try to meet this need. Oxygen may become more sparse in some areas of body tissue due to acidic reactions, and when this condition, called hypoxia, affects the brain, confusion, anxiety, or fatigue can result.


Other metabolic acidosis symptoms may affect the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and other systems. Abdominal pains, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea can all occur due to a buildup of acidic compounds in GI tissue. Often, a lack of bicarbonate, a chemical normally manufactured by the kidneys to help regulate the potential hydrogen (pH) of the body, can contribute to these issues, as well. Changes in appetite, ultimately leading to a loss of weight, may also take place, especially if this condition continues unchecked for some time.

Severe cases of this medical issue can lead to metabolic acidosis symptoms that can be quite serious. Shock and coma may occasionally come about as a result of oxygen shortage and its effects on the brain. Heart tissue may also be impacted by low pH, disturbing the regular beating patterns of the heart, and preventing the heart muscle from reacting properly to chemical messages from the nervous system. Occasionally, these symptoms may be problematic enough to lead to death.

Usually, metabolic acidosis symptoms are not specific enough to make a diagnosis based on these alone, and often, gases in the arteries must be sampled to determine whether an individual has this condition. Certain symptoms may indicate its causes, however. Visual problems like light sensitivity, retinal damage, or dim vision can come about from methanol ingestion, for example. Extreme thirst that occurs with stomach pain and vomiting could be linked to acidosis that is related to diabetes. Careful observation of these symptoms can therefore be important in making an analysis of metabolic acidosis, and deciding on a course of treatment.



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