Metabolic alkalosis is a condition where an individual's blood pH level becomes too high or too alkaline. An individual's body functions best when their blood pH level remains between the values of 7.35 and 7.45. This shift in blood pH level is caused by too much bicarbonate in blood serum, which can result from several mechanisms. Excessive vomiting, potassium deficiency, diuretic overuse, liver failure, antacid use, heart failure, laxative use, alcohol abuse, bicarbonate ingestion, and adrenal disease can all cause metabolic alkalosis. Metabolic alkalosis is diagnosed with the use of a physical examination, blood tests, and urine tests. Metabolic alkalosis may be treated with diet adjustments, intravenous saline, potassium supplementation, supportive oxygen, or intravenous potassium chloride.
Several symptoms can be indicative of metabolic alkalosis. Learn about them now.
Shallow And Rapid Breathing
Shallow breathing or hypoventilation may occur in an individual affected by metabolic alkalosis because the respiratory center in their brain becomes inhibited because of the imbalance of acids and bases in their body. Individuals who are chronically ill with failure of the heart, liver, lungs, or kidneys are more likely to present with this symptom because it is also a common manifestation of vital organ failure. Reduced blood flow to the kidneys, loss of gastric fluid in the gut, aldosteronism, Bartter syndrome, Liddle syndrome, and hyperglucocorticoidism can also produce rapid breathing and trigger the onset of metabolic alkalosis from loss of base in the blood. Rapid breathing can also occur in a metabolic alkalosis patient due to reduced blood volume because it is a compensatory mechanism for lack of oxygen saturation in body tissues.
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An individual with metabolic alkalosis may experience appetite loss. One main cause of many cases of metabolic alkalosis is the net loss of hydrochloric acid from the stomach, and one of the most common causes of low levels of hydrochloric acid in the stomach is severe vomiting. Any mechanism that causes severe vomiting can cause metabolic alkalosis, including the use of certain medications, gastrointestinal disorders, infections, high fever, dehydration, and many others. Hydrochloric acid performs several functions in the stomach, such as the elimination of viruses and bacteria, the protection of tissues from infection, and the breakdown, digestion, and absorption of nutrients. When these functions of the stomach become impaired because of a net loss of hydrochloric acid, the affected individual will experience symptoms related to poor digestive function, like loss of appetite. This loss of hydrochloric acid can trigger metabolic alkalosis because it contains a large concentration of chloride ions.
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Increased Heart Rate
A healthy individual should only experience an increased heart rate when they are exercising or when they fall ill. Someone who has a consistent increased heart rate during rest may have too much bicarbonate in their blood. Metabolic alkalosis can trigger hypoventilation or decreased rate of breathing in an affected individual. When the rate of breathing becomes decreased to a certain point, tissues distant from the heart do not receive an adequate amount of oxygen. Certain glands in the body can sense the lack of oxygen, which triggers the brain to activate mechanisms to compensate. Since the breathing center in the brain is being inhibited by the excessive base in the blood, it increases the individual's heart rate. The idea is the faster movement of the blood around the body will provide a better supply of oxygen to distant tissues that are lacking because of depressed respiration.
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Jaundice is a liver dysfunction characterized by yellowing of the whites of the eyes and yellowing of the skin. An individual who has a tumor in their liver, hepatitis, bile duct inflammation, hemolytic anemia, Gilbert's syndrome, or cholestasis can develop jaundice. The yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes is the result of bilirubin leaking into the blood. These problems with the liver can also cause lower than normal levels of an acid referred to as albumin in the blood, which raises its pH level. Another mechanism in the liver that can become impaired from the aforementioned conditions is the synthesis of urea. Urea synthesis is a critical function that causes the elimination of metabolically produced bicarbonate. Metabolic alkalosis develops when bicarbonate cannot be eliminated properly from an affected individual's body through this mechanism because it is impaired.
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An individual who has developed metabolic alkalosis due to acute kidney injury or kidney failure is likely to present with the symptom of confusion or memory loss due to lower than normal levels of calcium in the blood. A metabolic alkalosis patient can experience an increase in the binding of plasma proteins and calcium, which causes levels of calcium ions in the blood to decrease. In addition, damage to kidney tissues can cause calcium to be lost through urine. Hypocalcemia, low levels of calcium in the blood, can cause disruptions in the communication between nerves in the brain because calcium is an important cation. This disruption in nerve impulses and communication can cause an individual with metabolic alkalosis to experience neurological symptoms like confusion and memory loss.