Lactic acidosis

Toggle: English / Spanish


Lactic acidosis is when lactic acid builds up 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:

A common medicine used to treat diabetes called metformin can also cause lactic acidosis. If you take this medicine, have your electrolyte levels checked 1 to 2 weeks after starting it.


Symptoms may include:

  • Nausea
  • Weakness

Exams and Tests

Tests may include a blood test to check electrolyte levels


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


Seifter JL. Acid-base disorders. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap120.

Strayer RJ. Acid-base disorders. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 99.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 11/2/2014
  • Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission ( URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2013 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.