Bicarbonate levels are almost always done with other electrolytes to tell your doctor whether your sodium, potassium, chloride, and bicarbonate levels are in balance. They may be measured as part of routine blood testing, or when your doctor suspects an imbalance. Bicarbonate may also be measured when your doctor is evaluating your acid-base balance, to screen for an imbalance, and to monitor a known problem during treatment.
When bicarbonate levels are higher or lower than normal, it suggests that your body is having trouble maintaining its acid-base balance either by failing to remove carbon dioxide or perhaps because of an electrolyte imbalance, particularly a deficiency of potassium. Both of these imbalances may be due to a wide range of dysfunctions.
Some of the causes of a low bicarbonate level include:
Some drugs may increase bicarbonate levels especially diuretics such as frusemide (usually as a consequence of potassium deficiency). Other drugs may cause slightly low levels. Your doctor can advise if this appears to be a problem.
This article was last reviewed on 10 January 2012. | This article was last modified on 15 March 2012.
The review date indicates when the article was last reviewed from beginning to end to ensure that it reflects the most current science. A review may not require any modifications to the article, so the two dates may not always agree.
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