People may have irritability, muscle twitching, muscle cramps, or even muscle spasms.
Blood is tested to diagnose alkalosis.
Metabolic alkalosis is treated by replacing water and mineral salts such as sodium and potassium (electrolytes) and correcting the cause.
Respiratory alkalosis is treated by correcting the cause.
(See also Overview of Acid-Base Balance. Overview of Acid-Base Balance An important part of being healthy is for the blood to maintain a normal degree of acidity or alkalinity. The acidity or alkalinity of any solution, including blood, is indicated on the pH scale... read more )
Acidity and alkalinity of any solution, including blood, is indicated on the pH scale, which ranges from 0 (strongly acidic) to 14 (strongly basic or alkaline). A pH of 7.0, in the middle of this scale, is neutral.
Blood is normally slightly basic, with a normal pH range of 7.35 to 7.45. Usually the body maintains the pH of blood close to 7.40.
Causes of Alkalosis
If too much bicarbonate in the blood, a loss of acid from the blood, or a low level of carbon dioxide in the blood overwhelms the body's acid-base control systems Control of Acid-Base Balance An important part of being healthy is for the blood to maintain a normal degree of acidity or alkalinity. The acidity or alkalinity of any solution, including blood, is indicated on the pH scale... read more , the blood will become alkalotic. Alkalosis is categorized depending on its primary cause as
Metabolic alkalosis develops when the body
Loses too much acid
Gains too much base
For example, stomach acid is lost during periods of prolonged vomiting or when stomach acids are suctioned with a stomach tube (as is sometimes done in hospitals).
In rare cases, metabolic alkalosis develops in a person who has ingested too much base from substances such as baking soda (bicarbonate of soda).
In addition, metabolic alkalosis can develop when excessive loss of fluids and electrolytes (such as sodium or potassium) affects the kidneys' ability to maintain the blood's acid-base balance. For instance, loss of potassium sufficient to cause metabolic alkalosis may result from an overactive adrenal gland Hyperaldosteronism In hyperaldosteronism, overproduction of the hormone aldosterone leads to fluid retention and increased blood pressure, weakness, and, rarely, periods of paralysis. Hyperaldosteronism can be... read more or the use of diuretics (for example, thiazides, furosemide, or ethacrynic acid).
Respiratory alkalosis develops when
Rapid, deep breathing (hyperventilation) causes too much carbon dioxide to be expelled from the bloodstream
The most common cause of hyperventilation, and thus respiratory alkalosis, is anxiety Overview of Anxiety Disorders Anxiety is a feeling of nervousness, worry, or unease that is a normal human experience. It is also present in a wide range of mental health conditions, including generalized anxiety disorder... read more . Other causes of hyperventilation and consequent respiratory alkalosis include pain, low levels of oxygen in the blood, fever, and aspirin overdose (which can also cause metabolic acidosis Acidosis Acidosis is caused by an overproduction of acid that builds up in the blood or an excessive loss of bicarbonate from the blood (metabolic acidosis) or by a buildup of carbon dioxide in the blood... read more ).
Symptoms of Alkalosis
Alkalosis may cause
Muscle twitching and cramps
Tingling in the fingers and toes and around the lips
Tingling (paresthesia) is a common complaint in hyperventilation due to anxiety. Sometimes alkalosis causes no symptoms at all. If the alkalosis is severe, painful muscle spasms (tetany) can develop.
Diagnosis of Alkalosis
A doctor evaluates a person's acid-base balance by measuring the blood pH and levels of carbon dioxide (an acid) and bicarbonate (a base) in the blood. To learn more about the cause of the alkalosis, doctors also measure levels of electrolytes in samples of blood and urine.
Treatment of Alkalosis
Treatment of cause
In metabolic alkalosis, replacement of water and electrolytes
In respiratory alkalosis, giving oxygen if necessary or providing calming reassurance to a person who is hyperventilating due to anxiety
Almost always, treatment of alkalosis is directed at reversing the cause. Doctors rarely simply give acid, such as hydrochloric acid, to reverse the alkalosis.
Metabolic alkalosis is usually treated by replacing water and electrolytes (sodium and potassium) while treating the cause. Rarely, when metabolic alkalosis is very severe, dilute acid is given intravenously.
In respiratory alkalosis, the first step is to ensure that the person has enough oxygen. The doctor then looks for a serious cause, such as an infection. If pain is causing the person to breathe rapidly, relieving the pain usually suffices.
When respiratory alkalosis is caused by anxiety or a panic attack, a conscious effort to relax and slow breathing may make the condition disappear. Calming reassurance and emotional support can help. Sometimes people try to slow down their breathing by breathing into a paper bag, which may help raise the carbon dioxide level in the blood as the person breathes carbon dioxide back in after breathing it out. However, this is not recommended because it may lead to other problems (for example, worsening heart or lung problems because of breathing less oxygen).
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