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Milk-alkali syndrome

Definition

Milk-alkali syndrome is an acquired condition in which there are high levels of calcium (hypercalcemia) and a shift in the body's acid/base balance towards alkaline (metabolic alkalosis).

Causes

Milk-alkali syndrome is caused by excessive consumption of milk (which is high in calcium) and certain antacids, especially calcium carbonate or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), over a long period of time.

Calcium deposits in the kidneys and other tissues can occur in milk-alkali syndrome. Consumption of vitamin D, which is often added to milk bought at the supermarket, can worsen this condition.

In the past, milk-alkali syndrome was often a side effect of treating peptic ulcer disease. It is rarely seen today, because newer, better medications are available for treating ulcers.

Symptoms

The condition often has no symptoms (asymptomatic). When symptoms do occur, they are often related to complications, such as kidney problems.

Symptoms include:

  • Back and loin pain (related to kidney stones)
  • Excessive urination
  • Other problems that can result from kidney failure

Exams and Tests

Calcium deposits within the tissue of the kidney (nephrocalcinosis) may be seen on:

  • X-rays
  • Computed tomography (CT scans)
  • Ultrasound

Other tests used to make a diagnosis:

Treatment

Treatment involves reducing or eliminating milk and antacids. If severe kidney failure has occurred, the damage may be irreparable.

Outlook (Prognosis)

This condition is often reversible if kidney function remains normal. Severe prolonged cases may lead to permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis.

Possible Complications

The most common complications include:

  • Calcium deposits in tissues (calcinosis)
  • Kidney failure
  • Kidney stones

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Contact your health care provider if:

  • You drink large amounts of milk and you often use antacids.
  • You have any symptoms that might suggest kidney problems.

Prevention

Milk-alkali syndrome is now very uncommon because non-antacid treatments for indigestion, gastric ulcers, and peptic ulcer disease have replaced most excessive antacid use.

If you do use antacids often, don't drink large amounts of milk, and tell your doctor about your digestive problems.


Provided by adam.com

Review Date: 11/12/2007
Reviewed By: Charles Silberberg, D.O., Private Practice specializing in Nephrology, Affiliated with NY Medical College, Division of Nephrology, Valhalla, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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