What causes lactic acidosis?

Lactic acid forms when the mitochondria, small structures inside of cells that act somewhat like batteries, need to utilize oxygen-free methods to produce energy. This occurs when energy demands are high and oxygen is not supplied as quickly as would be necessary to meet them. Exercises that involve quick bursts of activity, such as sprinting and power lifting, commonly result in mitochondrial lactic acid production. Generally, the lactic acid is removed from the blood during rest periods and does not create significant problems.

If lactic acid is produced more quickly than it is removed, it can build up and cause lactic acidosis. Conditions and medications that interfere with the mitochondria, decrease the amount of oxygen in the blood, or decrease the clearance of lactic acid can cause lactic acid to increase to harmful levels.

What are the risk factors for lactic acidosis?

A number of factors increase the risk of developing lactic acidosis. Not all people with risk factors will get lactic acidosis. Risk factors for lactic acidosis include:

  • Cancer
  • Certain inherited metabolic disorders
  • Chronic alcoholism
  • Diabetes
  • Heart or lung disease
  • Highly stressful exercise without proper rest
  • Kidney disease (includes any type of kidney problem, such as kidney stones, kidney failure and kidney anomalies)
  • Liver disease (includes any type of liver problem, such as hepatitis, cirrhosis and liver failure)
  • Medications, including metformin (medication used to treat type 2 diabetes) and nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs, medications used to treat HIV and AIDS), although rare unless other risk factors are present
  • Seizures
  • Severe anemia
  • Severe infections
  • Shock

What is lactic acidosis?

Lactic acidosis is a type of acidosis that occurs when the blood becomes too acidic due to the presence of excess lactic acid in the body. Blood pH is tightly controlled because even slight changes in your pH can have severe effects on many organs. Normally, your blood is slightly basic, or alkaline. Acidosis occurs when the blood becomes more acidic than normal.

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What are the symptoms of lactic acidosis?

Symptoms of lactic acidosis may include nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, weakness, rapid breathing, rapid heart rate or irregular heart rhythm, and mental status changes.

Common symptoms of lactic acidosis

If you experience lactic acidosis, it may be accompanied by symptoms that include:
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How is lactic acidosis treated?

The main treatment for lactic acidosis is to correct the underlying problem that led to it. If lactic acid production can be slowed down, it is more likely that its clearance will be able to keep up with its production. Although substances can be given to decrease the acidity of your blood, the use of these can lead to a paradoxical increase in lactic acid production.

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Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 2, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Heart, Blood and Circulation