Acidosis is a condition in which the body fluids tend to have a higher acid content than normal. The body has a variety of ways to compensate for mild acidosis. But prolonged acidosis can produce weakness, headache, and heavy or rapid breathing. Severe acidosis may lead to acidemia—a build-up of acids in the blood. Acidemia can result in coma and death.
Acidosis itself is not a disease, but it may warn of the presence of a disease. It arises from disorders that cause the body to accumulate excess acid or to lose too much alkali. Most of these disorders are respiratory failures or metabolic failures. Respiratory acidosis results from such disturbances as severe lung disease, blockage of the upper air passages, and chest injury. Metabolic failures involve malfunctioning of the process by which the body changes food into energy and tissue. Metabolic acidosis arises from kidney failure, diabetes, poisoning, and severe diarrhea. Treatment usually consists of correcting the underlying problem and administering sodium bicarbonate or another alkaline substance through a vein.