What Are the Different Types of Acidosis?

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  • Written By: Andrew Kirmayer
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 29 March 2020
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Acidosis occurs when the human body cannot regulate the amount of acid in the blood and other fluids. Organs such as the kidneys, lungs, liver, and pancreas normally regulate acidity levels. If the amount of acid can’t be controlled, then serious health problems often result. The different types of acidosis include inadequate filtering of carbon dioxide by the lungs, or an imbalance in how the kidneys process the blood that flows through them. Ketoacidosis can develop in people with diabetes, a metabolic condition in which there isn’t enough of a hormone called insulin to break down sugar.

If the lungs do not remove enough carbon dioxide from the blood, then respiratory acidosis can result. Body fluids then often become acidic, which can reduce the function of organs, cause shock, or lead to respiratory failure. When the condition lasts over a long period of time, the kidneys sometimes regulate the acid levels with other substances. Acute forms of respiratory acidosis usually cause a rapid buildup of carbon dioxide which cannot be controlled by the kidneys.


Acidic molecules called ketone bodies are often produced during diabetic acidosis. These build up as a result of the breakdown of fat instead of a sugar called glucose, which typically can’t be processed without an adequate insulin supply. Another type of metabolic acidosis, typically caused by excess diarrhea, occurs when a lot of sodium bicarbonate is lost. Too much lactic acid can trigger types of acidosis that sometimes occur due to alcohol consumption, liver failure, lack of oxygen, or excessive amounts of exercise.

Other types of acidosis can result from abnormalities or diseases of the kidneys. Renal acidosis is often caused by the inability of tubular structures called nephrons to filter acidic hydrogen ions from the blood. Liver cirrhosis and rheumatoid arthritis sometimes result. A lack of bicarbonate put into the blood, or if the tubules do not add the right amount of sodium, are other forms of these types of acidosis involving the kidneys.

Treatment generally depends on the types of acidosis a person may have. Blood gas analysis as well as electrolyte and urine tests are often performed if someone has signs of a problem. Many types can be managed, but one typically needs to be aware of symptoms such as fatigue, confusion, or shortness of breath with acidosis involving the lungs. Diabetic ketoacidosis can cause rapid breathing, dry mouth, nausea, or stomach pain. In uncontrolled cases, it sometimes leads to coma, while muscle stiffness and extreme thirst are common symptoms.



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