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What is an anion gap on a blood report?

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Quick Answer

An anion gap, or serum anion gap, is a test that measures electrically charged particles in a person's blood to discover acid-base imbalances, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center. The anion gap is calculated from the results of an electrolyte panel, which is a separate blood test.

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What is an anion gap on a blood report?
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Full Answer

The test can help a physician diagnose acidosis, which occurs when a person's blood is too acidic, and alkalosis, which occurs when a person's blood is not acidic enough, explains the University of Rochester Medical Center. Acidosis can be life-threatening, so it is especially important to diagnose the condition and treat the cause.

A physician might order an anion gap if a person has symptoms of metabolic acidosis, which include fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, low blood pressure and a rapid heart rate. Metabolic acidosis can be caused when a person's body produces too much acid, such as in lactic acidosis or diabetic ketoacidosis, notes the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Another cause of metabolic acidosis occurs when a person loses too much bicarbonate, possibly through diarrhea. It can also occur when a person does not excrete enough acid through urine due to kidney problems, states the University of Rochester Medical Center.

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