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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, incidence, and risk factors:

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


Signs 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.



Support Groups:



Expectations (prognosis):

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



Complications:

The most common complications include:

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


Calling your health care provider:

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.




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.

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- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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789 Central Avenue, Dover, NH 03820
Phone: (603) 742-5252
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