Lactic acid is mainly produced in muscle cells and red blood cells. It forms when the body breaks down carbohydrates to use for energy when oxygen levels are low. Times when your body's oxygen level might drop include:
A test can be done to measure the amount of lactic acid in the blood.
A blood sample is needed. Most of the time blood is drawn from a vein located on the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand.
DO NOT exercise for several hours before the test. Exercise can cause a temporary increase in lactic acid levels.
You may feel slight pain or a sting when the needle is inserted. You may also feel some throbbing at the site after the blood is drawn.
This test is most often done to diagnose lactic acidosis.
Normal results range from 4.5 to 19.8 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) (0.5 to 2.2 millimoles per liter [mmol/L]).
Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your provider about the meaning of your specific test results.
The examples above show the common measurements for results for these tests. Some laboratories use different measurements or may test different specimens.
Abnormal results mean that body tissues are not getting enough oxygen.
Conditions that can increase lactic acid levels include:
Clenching the fist or having the elastic band in place for a long time while having blood drawn can result in a false increase in lactic acid level.
Neligan PJ. How should acid-base disorders be diagnosed? In: Deutschman CS, Neligan PJ, eds. Evidence-Based Practice of Critical Care. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 59.
Seifter JL. Acid-base disorders. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 110.
Tallentire VR, MacMahon MJ. Acute medicine and critical illness. In: Ralston SH, Penman ID, Strachan MWJ, Hobson RP, eds. Davidson's Principles and Practice of Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 10.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 5/1/2021
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
Health Content Provider
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. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2023 A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.