What is Alkalosis?

Alkalosis is an excessive blood alkalinity caused by an overabundance of bicarbonate in the blood, or a loss of acid from the blood 'Metabolic Alkalosis', or by a low level of carbon dioxide in the blood that results from rapid, or deep, breathing 'Respiratory Alkalosis'; Alkalosis is the opposite of excess acid Acidosis.

The kidneys and lungs are meant to maintain the proper balance of acid and base chemicals in the body; they are also are meant to maintain the proper levels (decreased) of carbon dioxide, which is an acid, and proper levels (increased) of bicarbonate, which is a base; improper levels make the body too alkaline, a condition called Alkalosis.

Respiratory Alkalosis is caused by low carbon dioxide levels in the blood; this can be due to a Fever, being at a High Altitude; a Lack of Oxygen; a Liver disease; a Lung disease, which causes you to breathe faster and hyperventilate and Salicylate poisoning; for Alkalosis caused by hyperventilation, breathing into a paper bag allows you to keep more carbon dioxide in your body, which improves the Alkalosis and if your oxygen level is low, you may receive oxygen; Respiratory Alkalosis is commonly found in patients with Asthma, Pneumonia & Pulmonary problems.

There are two types of Respiratory Alkalosis Acute and Chronic; Acute Respiratory Alkalosis occurs rapidly and during Acute Respiratory Alkalosis, the person may lose consciousness where the rate of ventilation will resume to normal; Chronic Respiratory Alkalosis is a more long standing condition; for every 10 mM drop in pCO2 in the blood, there is a corresponding 5 mM of bicarbonate ion drop; the drop of 5 mM of bicarbonate ion is a compensation effect which reduces the Alkalosis effect of the drop in pCO2 in the blood and this is termed metabolic compensation.
Metabolic Alkalosis is a state where there is too much bicarbonate in the blood and it can be caused by prolonged vomiting, resulting in a loss of hydrochloric acid with the stomach content; severe dehydration and the consumption of alkali are other causes; Metabolic Alkalosis can also be caused by administration of diuretics and endocrine disorders such as Cushing's syndrome; compensatory mechanisms for metabolic alkalosis involve slowed breathing by the lungs to increase serum carbon dioxide, a condition leaning toward Respiratory Acidosis, which often accompanies the compensation of Metabolic Alkalosis, and vice versa, a delicate balance is created between these two conditions.

Metabolic Alkalosis is usually accompanied with Hypokalemia, causing muscular weakness, Myalgia and Muscle Cramps, owing to disturbed function of the Skeletal Muscles, and Muscle Spasms, from the disturbed function of smooth muscles; it may also cause Hypocalcemia; as the pH of blood increases, the protein in the blood becomes more ionised into Anions; this causes the free calcium present in blood to bind strongly with protein; if severe, it may cause Alkalotic Tetany.

Other forms of Alkalosis include Hypochloremic Alkalosis, which is caused by an extreme lack, or loss, of chloride, which can occur with prolonged vomiting; Hypokalemic Alkalosis, which is caused by the kidneys' response to an extreme lack, or loss, of potassium, which can occur when people take certain diuretic medications and Compensated Alkalosis, which occurs when the body returns the acid, base balance, back to normal in cases of Alkalosis, but bicarbonate and carbon dioxide levels remain abnormal; symptoms can include Confusion, which can progress to stupor or coma; Hand tremor; Light headedness; Muscle twitching; Nausea and vomiting; Numbness or Tingling in the face, hands, or feet and Prolonged Muscle Spasms, known as Tetany.

An arterial blood gas analysis and basic metabolic panel will confirm Alkalosis and determine if it is Respiratory Alkalosis or Metabolic Alkalosis; but in order to treat Alkalosis, the doctor first needs to find the cause and for this a Urinalysis, or Urine pH test, will be carried out; treatment wise, some people need medications to correct the chemical loss, such as chloride and potassium; without treatment Alkalosis may lead to complications such as Arrhythmias, Coma or an Electrolyte Imbalance, such as Hypokalemia.

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