Lactic Acid

Optimal Result: 0.4 - 1.8 mmol/L.

This test measures the level of lactic acid (also known as lactate) in your blood. Lactic acid is the endproduct of the anaerobic metabolism of glucose. The blood lactic acid concentration is affected by its production in muscle cells and erythrocytes and its rate of metabolism in the liver. 

Lactic acidosis:

If lactic acid levels get too high, it can lead to a life-threatening condition known as lactic acidosis. A lactic acid test can help diagnose lactic acidosis before it causes serious complications.

The test may also be used to:

- Help find out if enough oxygen is reaching the body's tissues
- Help diagnose sepsis, a life-threatening reaction to a bacterial infection

You may need a lactic acid test if you have symptoms of lactic acidosis. These include:

Nausea and vomiting
Muscle weakness
Shortness of breath
Abdominal pain


If meningitis is suspected, the test may also be used to help find out if it is caused by bacteria or a virus. Meningitis is a serious infection of the brain and spinal cord. A test for lactate in cerebrospinal fluid is used with a lactic acid blood test to figure out the type of infection.

You may need this test if you have symptoms of meningitis or sepsis.

Symptoms of meningitis include:

- Severe headache
- Fever
- Stiff neck
- Sensitivity to light

Symptoms of sepsis include:

- Fever
- Chills
- Rapid heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Confusion


What does it mean if your Lactic Acid result is too high?

A high lactic acid level means you likely have lactic acidosis. There are two types of lactic acidosis: type A and type B.

The cause of your lactic acidosis depends on which type you have.

Type A is the most common form of the disorder. Conditions that cause type A lactic acidosis include:

- Sepsis
- Shock
- Heart failure
- Lung disease
- Anemia

Type B lactic acidosis may be caused by one of the following conditions:

- Liver disease
- Leukemia
- Kidney disease
- Strenuous exercise

If you had a spinal tap to check for a meningitis infection, your results may show:

- High levels of lactic acid. This probably means you have bacterial meningitis.
- Normal or slightly high levels of lactic acid. This probably means you have a viral form of the infection.

If you have questions about your results, talk to your health care provider.


Certain medicines cause the body to make too much lactic acid. These include some treatments for HIV and a medicine for type 2 diabetes called metformin. If you are taking any of these medicines, you may be at a higher risk for lactic acidosis. Talk to your health care provider if you are concerned about any medicines you are taking.

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