Most symptoms are caused by the underlying disease or condition that is causing the metabolic acidosis. Metabolic acidosis itself usually causes rapid breathing. Confusion or lethargy may also occur. Severe metabolic acidosis can lead to shock or death. In some situations, metabolic acidosis can be a mild, chronic (ongoing) condition.
Signs and tests
Arterial blood gas
Arterial blood gas analysis or a serum electrolytes test (such as a basic metabolic panel) will confirm acidosis is present and determine whether it is respiratory acidosis or metabolic acidosis.
Other test may be needed to determine the cause of the 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.
What can be expected will depend on the underlying disease causing the metabolic acidosis.
When very severe, metabolic acidosis can lead to shock or death.
Calling your health care provider
Seek medical treatment if you develop symptoms of any disease that can cause metabolic acidosis.
Keeping type 1 diabetes under control may help prevent diabetic ketoacidosis, one type of metabolic acidosis.
David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.