Alkalosis

Overview of alkalosis

Your blood consists of two important substances that can be used to measure body pH. They are acids and bases. Their amount in your blood is used to design a pH scale. When there is a little fluctuation in their amount in the blood, two medical conditions will arise – alkalosis and acidosis. But what we are interested in in this article is alkalosis.

Alkalosis occurs when there is a high level of a base (also called alkali) in the blood.

A decreased carbon dioxide level in the blood is one way that this disorder can occur. It can also occur when bicarbonate levels are very high in the blood. Bicarbonate is a base. Carbon dioxide is an acid.

This disorder can also be caused by low levels of potassium in the blood.

The outcome for this disorder will be better if it is attended to early enough.

The five types of alkalosis

There are five (5) basic types of this disorder .

Respiratory alkalosis

This occurs when the body has very little carbon dioxide. It’s often due to any of the following:

  • high altitudes
  • salicylate poisoning
  • lung disease
  • hyperventilation with anxiety
  • lack of oxygen
  • high fever
  • liver disease

Metabolic alkalosis

This will occur when your body has either too little acid or too much base. This can be because of:

  • adrenal disease
  • throwing up excessively
  • antacids
  • alcohol abuse
  • accidental consumption of bicarbonate, commonly found in baking soda
  • potassium or sodium loss in large amounts in within a very short while
  • excessive diuretics use
  • laxatives

Hypochloremic alkalosis

This occurs when the chloride level in the body has significantly fallen below what is obtainable. Chloride is vital in major body processes particularly in the regulation of electrolytes in the body. It’s also present in large amounts in the digestive fluids.

Continued sweating or vomiting are prominent ways hypochloremic alkalosis can occur.

Hypokalemic alkalosis

Hypokalemic alkalosis is when potassium levels are very low in the body. Diarrhea, kidney disorders, excessive sweating, and poor potassium diets can cause hypokalemic alkalosis.

Potassium is crucial to the full working of the:

  • kidneys
  • heart
  • nervous system
  • muscles
  • digestive system

Alkalosis
Photo Credit: Medindia

Symptoms of alkalosis

Early symptoms

The early symptoms of this disorder are:

  • numbness
  • nausea
  • muscle twitching
  • prolonged muscle spasms
  • hand tremors

Serious symptoms

This disorder has to be treated immediately else it can get really serious. Peculiar symptoms that show that alkalosis has become a serious issue are:

You should call 911 when you experience any of the above symptoms.

Diagnosing alkalosis

The symptoms of this disorder aren’t exclusive to just it aone. Other medical conditions can have symptoms that are similar to it. A doctor’s help will hence be very important in its diagnosis.

When you see your doctor for evaluation of your condition, your symptoms, together with your medical history, will be evaluated. To be more exact in diagnosis, other tests will be required. They are:

The American Association for Clinical Chemistry has submitted that a blood pH level between 7.35 and 7.45 is normal. Anything greater than 7.45 may be indicating alkalosis.

Respiratory issues can be ruled out during diagnosis for alkalosis by assessing both levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood.

Receiving treatment for alkalosis

Your treatment plan will depend on the cause of the disorder.

Once your doctor has ascertained the cause of the disorder, treatment can begin.

If what you have is respiratory alkalosis, your carbon dioxide level must be restored to normal. If you are going through anxiety which has ultimately resulted in you breathing really fast, take slow but deep breaths. This can do wonder to your symptoms and also put your oxygen level in control.

If test results shows that your oxygen level is low, you’ll have to receive oxygen via a mask.

If the rapid breathing you are having is due to pain, it will mean that the pain will be treated so that your rate of respiration can be restored and symptoms, improved.

When this disorder is caused by electrolyte loss i.e. chloride or potassium, medications to replace such will be given to you.

Other cases of this disorder can be attributed to an electrolyte imbalance. Drinking lots of water or electrolyte-rich drinks can correct this. But when electrolytes drinks and water can no longer handle it, a doctor will have to be involved.

It is common for most people who receive prompt treatment to recover.

How do I prevent alkalosis?

If you can cultivate the habit of eating balanced meals, staying always hydrated and maintaining good health, you can prevent the development of this disorder. Electrolyte deficiencies can be curbed by eating meals well-packed with potassium and nutrients.

You can find both potassium and nutrients chiefly in vegetables, fruits, and foods. For example:

  • bananas
  • carrots
  • spinach
  • milk
  • beans
  • bran

How you can prevent dehydration:                            

  • drink 8 – 10 glasses of water everyday
  • drink water prior to, during, and subsequently after an exercise
  • use electrolyte-replacement drinks especially for exercises of very high intensity
  • avoid dehydration-worsening drinks which are usually high in their sugar content i.e. sodas and juices
  • limit your caffeine use

It’s vital to keep at the back of your mind that the thirstiness you are experiencing from this disorder is a pointer to the fact that you are already dehydrated.

Dehydration can likewise be developed very rapidly if electrolytes have been lost. One way electrolytes can be lost is through throwing up when you have flu.

Drink fluids, i.e. water, broth-based soups and sports drinks in adequate quantity when you see that you hardly retain potassium-rich meals in your stomach.

Alkalosis prognosis

The outlook for this disorder is largely dependent on how fast its diagnosis is. The faster it’s treated, the higher the chances are that you will get better soon. Alkalosis due to the presence of existing kidney disease may be very hard to prevent. It’s crucial to stick to all instructions issued by your doctor after you’ve been diagnosed with this disorder.

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