People may have irritability, muscle twitching, muscle cramps, or even muscle spasms.
Blood is tested to diagnose alkalosis.
Metabolic alkalosis is treated by replacing water and mineral salts such as sodium and potassium (electrolytes) and correcting the cause.
Respiratory alkalosis is treated by correcting the cause.
(See also Overview of Acid-Base Balance.)
Acidity and alkalinity of any solution, including blood, is indicated on the pH scale, which ranges from 0 (strongly acidic) to 14 (strongly basic or alkaline). A pH of 7.0, in the middle of this scale, is neutral.
Blood is normally slightly basic, with a normal pH range of 7.35 to 7.45. Usually the body maintains the pH of blood close to 7.40.
If too much bicarbonate in the blood, a loss of acid from the blood, or a low level of carbon dioxide in the blood overwhelms the body's acid-base control systems, the blood will become alkalotic. Alkalosis is categorized depending on its primary cause as
Metabolic alkalosis develops when the body
For example, stomach acid is lost during periods of prolonged vomiting or when stomach acids are suctioned with a stomach tube (as is sometimes done in hospitals).
In rare cases, metabolic alkalosis develops in a person who has ingested too much base from substances such as baking soda (bicarbonate of soda).
In addition, metabolic alkalosis can develop when excessive loss of fluids and electrolytes (such as sodium or potassium) affects the kidneys' ability to maintain the blood's acid-base balance. For instance, loss of potassium sufficient to cause metabolic alkalosis may result from an overactive adrenal gland or the use of diuretics (for example, thiazides, furosemide, or ethacrynic acid).
Respiratory alkalosis develops when
Alkalosis may cause
Tingling (paresthesia) is a common complaint in hyperventilation due to anxiety. Sometimes alkalosis causes no symptoms at all. If the alkalosis is severe, painful muscle spasms (tetany) can develop.
Almost always, treatment of alkalosis is directed at reversing the cause. Doctors rarely simply give acid, such as hydrochloric acid, to reverse the alkalosis.
Metabolic alkalosis is usually treated by replacing water and electrolytes (sodium and potassium) while treating the cause. Rarely, when metabolic alkalosis is very severe, dilute acid is given intravenously.
In respiratory alkalosis, the first step is to ensure that the person has enough oxygen. The doctor then looks for a serious cause, such as an infection. If pain is causing the person to breathe rapidly, relieving the pain usually suffices.
When respiratory alkalosis is caused by anxiety or a panic attack, a conscious effort to relax and slow breathing may make the condition disappear. Calming reassurance and emotional support can help, and breathing into a paper (not a plastic) bag may help raise the carbon dioxide level in the blood as the person breathes carbon dioxide back in after breathing it out.