What is Alkalosis?

Allison Boelcke

Alkalosis is a medical condition that occurs when the body’s natural chemical levels become unbalanced. The body contains two main chemical types: acids and bases. Acids and bases are generally regulated by the body’s different organs, such as the kidneys and liver, to remain balanced. For example, the stomach contains more acid, while the intestines have higher levels of bases. If the body has a much higher amount of one chemical compound than the other, it can reduce the body’s organs from functioning correctly. When too much of a base or too little of an acid is present, it is referred to as alkalosis and can cause potential health issues.

Alkalosis may occur as a side effect of liver disease.
Alkalosis may occur as a side effect of liver disease.

There are several possible causes of alkalosis in the body. If the levels of acid are reduced to abnormal levels, it may be a side effect of lung or liver disease. It can also be due to extended periods of time at a high altitude or salicylate toxicity. Salicylate is a chemical compound found in many over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications. Lowered acid levels can also be a complication of a high fever or oxygen deprivation.

Extended periods of vomiting may be the cause of alkalosis.
Extended periods of vomiting may be the cause of alkalosis.

Alkalosis can also be due to increased levels of bases in the body. This can be the result of extended periods of vomiting, which may cause the body to lose levels of chloride, a chemical typically found in the bloodstream that is responsible for retaining bodily fluids. Increased base levels can also be a side effect of diuretic medications which cause the body to expel urine. If the body expels too much urine, it can lower the kidney’s amount of potassium, a chemical primarily responsible for maintaining the body’s muscle and nerve function.

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If too much urine is expelled by the body, it can lower the kidney's amount of potassium.
If too much urine is expelled by the body, it can lower the kidney's amount of potassium.

The symptoms of alkalosis can vary depending on the severity of the condition. Common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and light-headedness. It may also result in feelings of confusion. The condition may also affect the muscles and nerves and result in twitching, numbness, and spasms.

Extended periods of time at a high altitude can cause alkalosis.
Extended periods of time at a high altitude can cause alkalosis.

Alkalosis can be treated once it is discovered if the condition is caused by lowered acid levels or increased base levels. Lowered acid levels may be treated with the use of an oxygen machine, which may help even out the body’s chemical levels. If the condition is the result of increased base levels, medication may be needed to replenish the chemicals, such as chloride and potassium, that the body lost. When the exact cause of the condition is unknown, a doctor can test the urine of a patient to determine if the condition is due to acid or base levels.

Alkalosis may occur as a result of high fever.
Alkalosis may occur as a result of high fever.
Lowered acid levels can be a complication of oxygen deprivation.
Lowered acid levels can be a complication of oxygen deprivation.

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