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Respiratory acidosis: values, causes and treatment

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

Respiratory acidosis is called an alteration in the acid-base balance in which there is a decrease in the frequency of breaths, which is also known as hypoventilation. This causes a progressive concentration of carbon dioxide in the blood plasma and consequently a reduction in the pH level of the blood.

Since carbon dioxide is constantly produced when the body metabolizes energy, it will accumulate very quickly in the body if the lungs cannot eliminate it adequately. Alveolar hypoventilation thus leads to a partial pressure of arterial carbon dioxide, or PaCO2, a condition known as hypercapnia.

If you want to know more about this condition, in the following FastlyHealarticle, we will detail all the necessary information about respiratory acidosis: values, causes, and treatment.

Values ​​indicative of respiratory acidosis

Knowing the blood pressure value of CO2 is an excellent indicator to determine the effectiveness of alveolar ventilation and, therefore, respiration; Furthermore, it is related to the pH of the blood, and, if there is an alteration, the variation in both factors can help to establish respiratory acidosis.

To obtain these values, the specialist performs a test called arterial blood gas, which consists of taking a sample of arterial blood through a fine needle or an arterial catheter from the radial artery of the wrist or the femoral artery in the groin. However, it can be removed from other sites.

Under normal conditions, the pH in the blood is slightly alkaline, ranging from 7.35 to 7.45, while the PaCO2 ranges from 35 to 45 mmHg. When the arterial carbon dioxide partial pressure is more significant than its upper limit of the normal range, that is, over 45 mmHg, and the pH is lower or is observed as usual, when the result of the arterial blood gas, it indicates that one suffers from respiratory acidosis.

Within this condition of acid-base imbalance and decrease in the frequency of breaths, according to the values ​​of the parameters above, two types can be distinguished :

  • Acute respiratory acidosis: PaCO2 is more significant than 45 mmHg and pH below the lower limit, 7.35.
  • Chronic respiratory acidosis: Elevated PaCO2 and pH between normal ranges. This is due to the compensation mechanism by the kidneys and the high level of bicarbonate.

Causes of respiratory acidosis

Respiratory acidosis is usually caused by various disorders such as:

  • Chest diseases, such as scoliosis.
  • Airway pathologies, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD, and asthma.
  • Lung tissue disorders, such as pulmonary fibrosis.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Severe obesity as it limits the lungs from expanding usually.
  • The consumption of drugs makes breathing difficult.
  • Diseases in which the muscles and nerves responsible for signaling the lungs to inflate and deflate are affected.

In chronic respiratory acidosis that lasts for a relatively long period, the body’s situation becomes stable because the kidneys increase existing chemicals, such as bicarbonate, which help restore the body’s acid-base balance.

If respiratory acidosis is acute, carbon dioxide accumulates very rapidly in the body, and the kidneys cannot restore the body to a balanced state.

Primary symptoms of respiratory acidosis

The most frequent symptoms that patients with respiratory acidosis present are:

  • They are constantly tired.
  • They tire quickly and easily during daytime activities.
  • They suffer from breathing difficulties.
  • They suffer from confusion and lethargy.
  • They present with hallucinations, depression, and Hippocratic fingers.
  • They have tremors in their hands.
  • There is a more significant increase in the expansion of the thorax.

Respiratory acidosis: Treatment

Treatment of respiratory acidosis will depend on the underlying conditions; however, supportive measures such as oxygen therapy or mechanical ventilation are highly recommended and necessary regardless of the cause of the pathology.

One of the treatments is nerve or muscle stimulation, in which electrical currents are sent so that rhythmic stimulation through it offers positive results in breathing.

Another option may be to make some lifestyle changes, for example, if the cause of respiratory acidosis is obesity. This is why losing weight is highly recommended for hypoventilation syndrome patients.

Drugs can also be another alternative for treating respiratory acidosis, depending on its cause. Among the most used are anticholinergics, theophylline, and respiratory stimulants. But everything will depend on the cause of the disease, so it is essential to carry out regular medical checks, especially if you suffer from any alteration mentioned above.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Respiratory acidosis: values, causes and treatment , we recommend that you enter our Lung and respiratory tract category .

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