When the pH of the extracellular fluid drops, the kidneys come into action to restore its optimal pH level. Understanding how the kidneys help in maintaining the acid-base balance in the body is essential.
What is pH level?
The pH level measures the concentration of hydrogen ions in the solution. The pH level ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 being a neutral pH level. The solution is acidic when the pH level is less than 7 and is alkaline when it is greater than 7. Our body maintains a tight control over the pH level in the extracellular fluid as even slight changes can alter the metabolic reactions.
What is the acid-base balance?
The acid-base balance is the balance between the acids and bases in our body that can affect the pH level. The body has a range of mechanisms to maintain its acid-base balance, one of them being through the kidneys. Various physiological processes in the body, such as metabolism and digestion, produce acids as by-products that need to be neutralized.
How do the kidneys regulate the pH level?
The kidneys regulate the pH of the extracellular fluid by excreting or reabsorbing hydrogen ions and bicarbonate ions. The hydrogen ions and bicarbonate ions are the primary ions that determine the pH level of the extracellular fluid. The kidneys produce bicarbonate ions and excrete hydrogen ions in urine in case of acidity, leading to an increase in pH level, and vice versa. The kidneys also regulate the pH level by controlling the reabsorption of filtered bicarbonate and secretion of hydrogen ions in the tubule to maintain the balance between the concentration of these ions.
What is the role of glomerulus in pH regulation?
The glomerulus is a filtering unit of the kidney that filters the electrolytes, water, and various other solutes. The blood-pressure-driven filtration in the glomerulus removes the excess hydrogen ions that can lower the pH level. The glucose and amino acids are also reabsorbed via the glomerulus to prevent acidic metabolites from building up that can contribute to acidosis.
What is respiratory acidosis?
Respiratory acidosis is a condition where the carbon dioxide retained in the body increases, resulting in the rise of acid concentration in the extracellular fluid. The common causes of respiratory acidosis include lung-related diseases, obesity, and drug overdose.
What is metabolic acidosis?
Metabolic acidosis is a condition where the amount of acid produced by the body surpasses its ability to get rid of it efficiently. It can occur due to various conditions such as renal disorders, diabetes, and other diseases that result in excessive production of acids in the body.
What are the symptoms of acidosis?
- Change in breathing patterns
- Low blood pressure
- Nausea and vomiting
What are the treatments for acidosis?
Treatments for acidosis vary based on the cause and severity of the condition. For respiratory acidosis, treatment primarily involves improving the respiratory function, such as providing oxygen therapy, clearing airways, and other treatments as prescribed by the doctor. In the case of metabolic acidosis, treatments include hydration, inhibition of the acid production, and kidney function improvement based on the underlying disease.
What are the complications of acidosis?
The complications of acidosis depend on the underlying causes, the severity of the condition, and the duration. The longer the acidosis persists in the body, the greater the risk of the condition progressing and leading to other health problems. Complications of acidosis include respiratory failure, shock, and organ damage.
What are the preventive measures for acidosis?
Preventive measures for acidosis primarily depend on identifying the potential triggers for the condition and making lifestyle changes accordingly. One of the best ways to prevent acidosis is by maintaining a healthy diet and limiting habits that cause acidosis, such as alcohol and drug abuse. Regular check-ups and monitoring of the acid levels in the body can help detect acidosis at an early stage.
The pH level of the extracellular fluid is tightly regulated by the kidneys in the body, and any imbalance can lead to acidosis. The kidneys play a critical role in maintaining the acid-base balance in the body, and understanding their mechanism is essential in treating and preventing acidosis.
- Emmett, M., & Narins, R. G. (2018). Clinical Use of the Anion Gap. Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, 13(2), 186–191. https://doi.org/10.2215/cjn.07820617
- Wesson, D. E., & Simoni, J. (2018). Acidosis: the kiss of death. Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, 13(2), 347–349. https://doi.org/10.2215/CJN.14941217
- Seifter, J. L., & Chang, H. (2018). Disorders of Acid–Base Balance: New Perspectives. Kidney Diseases, 4(2), 80–92. https://doi.org/10.1159/000487854
- Shah, G. R., & Ropper, A. H. (2018). Acid-base disorders. In Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, 20e. McGraw Hill.
Most Common Questions and their Answers related to ‘When the pH drops, kidneys kick in’
- What is acidosis?
- Acidosis is a medical condition where the pH of the extracellular fluid drops below the normal range. It can be caused due to increased production of acid, decreased elimination of acid, or loss of bicarbonate.
- What are the types of acidosis?
- There are two types of acidosis: respiratory acidosis and metabolic acidosis.
- What is the role of kidneys in the acid-base balance?
- The kidneys are responsible for regulating the pH level of the extracellular fluid by excreting or reabsorbing hydrogen ions and bicarbonate ions.
- What are the symptoms of acidosis?
- The symptoms of acidosis may include headache, confusion, weakness, dehydration, low blood pressure, nausea, and vomiting.
- How is acidosis treated?
- The treatment of acidosis varies based on the cause and severity of the condition. Treatment may include improving respiratory function, improving kidney function, and reducing acid production.