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Alternative Names Return to topVentilatory failure; Respiratory failure; Acidosis - respiratory
Definition Return to top
Respiratory acidosis is a condition that occurs when the lungs cannot remove all of the carbon dioxide the body produces. This disrupts the body's acid-base balance. Body fluids become too acidic.
Causes Return to top
Causes of respiratory acidosis include:
Chronic respiratory acidosis occurs over a long period of time. This leads to a stable situation, because the kidneys increase chemicals that help restore the body's acid-base balance.
Acute respiratory acidosis is a severe condition in which carbon dioxide builds up very quickly and before the kidneys can return the body to a state of balance.
Symptoms Return to top
Symptoms may include:
Exams and Tests Return to top
A chest x-ray or CT scan is a helpful way of checking the lung's appearance without having to biopsy it.
Pulmonary function tests are a series of breathing tests that evaluate lung capacity.
An arterial blood gas test involves having blood drawn and directly measuring the amounts of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and acids.
Treatment Return to top
Treatment is aimed at the underlying lung disease, and may include:
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
How well you do depends on the disease causing the respiratory acidosis.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Severe respiratory acidosis is a medical emergency. Seek immediate medical help if you have symptoms of this condition.
Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of lung disease.
Prevention Return to top
Do not smoke. Smoking leads to the development of many severe lung diseases that can cause respiratory acidosis.
Losing weight may help prevent obesity hypoventilation syndrome.
Be careful about taking sedating medicines, and never combine these medicines with alcohol.
References Return to top
Murray J, Nadel J. Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders; 2000:191-192.
Marx J., Hockberger R, Walls R. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 6th ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby; 2005.
Ford MD. Clinical Toxicology. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders; 2001:92.Update Date: 11/12/2007 Updated by: Andrew Schriber, M.D., F.C.C.P., Specialist in Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, Virtua Memorial Hospital, Mount Holly, New Jersey. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.