Northside Health Library

Lactic acidosis


Lactic acidosis is when lactic acid builds ups in the bloodstream faster than it can be removed. Lactic acid is produced when oxygen levels in the body drop.


The most common cause of lactic acidosis is intense exercise. However, it can also be caused by certain diseases, such as:

Metformin, a common medicine used to treat diabetes, can also cause lactic acidosis. People taking this medicine should have their electrolyte levels checked 1 - 2 weeks after starting it.


  • Nausea
  • Weakness

Exams and Tests

  • Blood tests to check electrolyte levels


The main treatment for lactic acidosis is to correct the medical problem that causes the condition.


Oh MS. Evaluation of renal function, water, electrolytes and acid-base balance. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management of Laboratory Methods. 21st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2006: chap 14.

Collings JL. Acid-base disorders. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa:Mosby Elsevier;2009:chap 122.

Review Date: 10/28/2010
Reviewed By: Linda Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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