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One buffer that is crucial for maintaining pH homeostasis in the human body is the bicarbonate buffer system. This buffer system comprises the weak acid carbonic acid (H2CO3) and the bicarbonate ions that are its conjugate base (HCO3-). Extracellular fluid, such as blood plasma, is most often affected.
The bicarbonate buffer system tries to correct the deviation when the body's pH falls by sequestering more hydrogen ions (H+) and turning them into carbonic acid (H2CO3), categorized as a weak acid and increasing acidity (Ahmed et al., 2021). Following this dissociation process, carbonic acid changes into water and carbon dioxide (CO2), which may then be exhaled by breathing. In order to balance off an excess of hydrogen ions, bicarbonate ions act as a base by releasing hydroxide ions (OH-) in reaction to an increase in pH (alkalinity).
An acid-base imbalance may result from the bicarbonate buffer system not functioning as intended. Two key circumstances might result in bicarbonate buffer system dysfunction:
1. Metabolic acidosis: This sickness arises when the body lacks bicarbonate or builds up acid. Severe diarrhea, diabetic ketoacidosis, and renal failure are a few possible causes. Numerous symptoms and warning indications are possible, including fast breathing, disorientation, exhaustion, and nausea.
2. Metabolic alkalosis: This disease develops when there is an excessive loss of acid or a rise in bicarbonate levels. It may be brought on by illnesses like vomiting, ingesting alkaline chemicals, or using certain drugs. Muscle twitching, hand tremors, increased thirst, and breathing problems are just a few signs and symptoms that may appear.
The underlying cause and particular disease must be addressed before treating a buffer imbalance. The underlying cause of metabolic acidosis must be treated by giving intravenous fluids or improving renal function (Ahmed et al., 2021). Treatment of the underlying disease and restoring fluid and electrolyte balance may be necessary for metabolic alkalosis.
A clarifying query about buffers that I would like to learn more about is: “How do buffers work at a molecular level to maintain pH stability?"