Anion Gap High: What the Test Results Mean

Our body is composed of electrolytes elements. Some types of are chloride, sodium, magnesium, and calcium. And these electrolytes are vital for the physiological function of our body.

hand wearing surgical white glove holding blood sample in a test tube

Our body is composed of electrolyte elements. Some types of are chloride, sodium, magnesium, and calcium. And these electrolytes are vital for the physiological function of our body. It has a positive and negative electrical charge, and the electrical charge is responsible for the acid balance in the body. You can get the value of an anion gap by calculating the outcome of an electrolyte blood test. You can do this by subtracting the positive charge from the negative charge electrolyte.

If the results come as anion gap that is either too elevated or too low it could point to a disorder that you may not know you have.

In this article, we will tackle the meaning behind the anion gaps as well as its causes.

Electrolyte Imbalance Symptoms

The symptoms of electrolyte imbalance include but are not limited to:

  • Breathlessness
  • Weakness
  • Edema (fluid accumulation)
  • Vomiting and/or nausea
  • Confusion
  • Abnormal heartbeat

If any of these symptoms have been observed occurring, your doctor may ask for an anion gap blood test to check if you have an electrolyte imbalance.

electrolyte imbalance symptoms

Anion Gap Blood Test

To check the level of your blood acidity, an anion gap blood test is necessary. This test will be based on the result of an electrolyte panel – another form of a blood test.

The procedure of the test is very simple. A health care professional will take a blood sample from your arm using a needle. You will feel a slight sting as the health care professional inserts the needle. He/she will draw blood and put it in a test tube.

The sample blood will then be brought in a laboratory to be examined.

1. Test Preparation: If you wonder if there are any preparations needed for the anion gap blood test, the answer is none. No special preparation is necessary for the test. For other blood tests, fasting may be necessary. However, in anion gap test, your health care provider will let you know if you need any preparations for it.

2. Test Risks: You should never worry about the test risks. For instance, the test has a very low risk which only includes bruising or a slight pain upon the needle entering in and out of your arm. But these symptoms do fade away without you even noticing.

Anion Gap Blood Test Results

The anion test results come into two options, a low and high value. Milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L) is the measure of units use to report their value. Though certain lab has its standard normal ranges, it generally falls under 3 to 10 mEq/L.

Low Anion Gap

A low anion gap results seldom happen. If it does, one of the following may be the reason:

  • Laboratory Error: Your doctor may ask you for another anion gap blood test if it resulted in a low anion gap. Most of the low anion gap results are due to laboratory error, thus, a second opinion is necessary.
  • Hypoalbuminemia: This condition indicates that your blood albumin (protein) levels are too low. Albumin is the most abundant that dropping its level affects the anion gap blood test. If your doctor suspects its presence, he/she may ask for another blood test. If they detected lower levels of albumin, it may indicate that you have burns, infection, kidney disease, liver disease, or even cancer.
  • Monoclonal and Polyclonal Gammopathy: This is the opposite of hypoalbuminemia. It is characterized by having too many immunoglobulins (protein) in the blood. One particular immunoglobulin is called IgG.

Monoclonal and polyclonal gammopathy is quite alarming as it is associated with negative health conditions like multiple myeloma and other inflammatory diseases. To determine the level of immunoglobulins in your blood, your doctor may ask for another blood test.

Furthermore, to diagnose your condition, your doctor may conduct a urine protein electrophoresis test.

High Anion Gap

If your anion gap blood test got an elevated result, it could mean that your blood is too acidic. Acidosis could be the other reason for the same result.

Acidosis may indicate that you are dehydrated, having diarrhea, or you are doing too much exercise.

Getting a high anion gap result, or having acidosis, is associated with conditions such as:

  • Uremia (blood urea)
  • Salicylates (i.e. aspirin) overdose
  • Ethylene glycol poisoning
  • Kidney disease
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)

The last condition is a serious one that needs medical attention.

Now, going back to acidosis, it has two types: respiratory acidosis and metabolic acidosis. But in this article, we will focus on the latter one.

Metabolic acidosis normally occurs if you are producing more acid and not getting rid of it at the same time. Having this condition can be life-threatening as your body won’t function that it should. The good news is, metabolic acidosis can be treated.

Treating it should be trace back on what caused it in the first place, then your doctor can provide the appropriate treatment. Restoring the balance of the chemical acids is the treatment’s priority, or else your bones, kidneys, and muscles can be affected. Treating it may include:

  • Sodium bicarbonate through IV
  • If you have DKA, you may be given insulin
  • Your doctor may use a needle to send IV fluids into your vein
  • If you have a history of using drugs or alcohol doctors may do detoxification

You might even confine in the hospital to treat the condition.

Metabolic Acidosis Prevention

Preventing the condition of metabolic acidosis is not always possible, but lessening its chance of occurrence is achievable by following these simple tips:

  • Keep hydrated by drinking a lot of water and other non-alcoholic beverages. You will notice that your pee is either pale yellow or colorless.
  • Limit alcohol intake as it can buildup acid. It may also cause dehydration.
  • Follow your doctor’s instructions regarding medication consumptions.

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