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What Are the Different Symptoms of Alkalosis?

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  • Written By: C. K. Lanz
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 13 April 2014
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The symptoms of alkalosis include irritability, confusion, and muscle twitches that can develop into spasms. Some people with alkalosis may also experience nausea and vomiting, tingling, and lightheadedness. These symptoms of alkalosis occur when the body’s acid-base balance is disrupted. Alkalosis can develop after a loss of stomach acid, after ingesting too much of substances like baking soda, or when the kidneys can no longer maintain a proper balance of acid and base in the bloodstream because of low potassium levels. Treating this condition usually involves addressing the underlying cause or administering water, electrolytes, or diluted acid in severe cases.

The first symptoms of alkalosis are usually sensory changes because excess base in the bloodstream will cause neurons to become hyperexcitable. An individual with alkalosis will usually notice numbness or tingling first that evolves into muscle twitches like a hand tremor. These muscle changes are usually accompanied by lightheadedness and confusion that may worsen into a stupor or even a coma.

If the alkalosis is severe, the muscle twitches will eventually become spasms. These spasms can result in paralysis of vital muscle groups such as those responsible for respiration. If the person with alkalosis loses consciousness, cannot breathe, or has other symptoms of alkalosis that get worse fast, medical intervention becomes crucial.

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Alkalosis can result from various different causes. Medication like a diuretic can drop a person’s potassium levels to the point where the kidneys have trouble maintaining a proper acid-base balance in the blood. An overactive adrenal gland can have a similar effect.

Hyperventilation can also cause symptoms of alkalosis or respiratory alkalosis, specifically. The deep but quick breathing characteristic of hyperventilation will expel too much carbon dioxide from the body too fast. Anxiety disorders often trigger hyperventilation, but this type of alkalosis can often be controlled by slowing and adjusting the breath or breathing into a paper bag. Other causes of respiratory alkalosis include liver and lung disease and high altitudes.

When a person loses a large amount of stomach acid, symptoms of alkalosis can result. Stomach acid is typically lost when someone vomits continually. It can also occur when someone has to have her stomach pumped.

Once the symptoms of alkalosis have been detected, confirming the diagnosis is usually as simple as running a blood test to see if the blood is really alkaline. Treating alkalosis may require determining the underlying cause, and therefore additional testing can vary significantly. If left untreated, the symptoms of alkalosis can get worse, and complications such as arrhythmias or hypokalemia can develop.

The majority of cases of alkalosis are treatable, especially once the underlying cause is reveled. Treatment will vary depending on what is causing the acid-base imbalance. In some cases, medication may be prescribed to correct a loss of potassium or chloride. A doctor can also decide to administer water and electrolytes or dilute acid in severe cases.

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