Learn About Respiratory Acidosis

What is the definition of Respiratory Acidosis?

Respiratory acidosis is a condition that occurs when the lungs cannot remove all of the carbon dioxide the body produces. This causes body fluids, especially the blood, to become too acidic.

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What are the alternative names for Respiratory Acidosis?

Ventilatory failure; Respiratory failure; Acidosis - respiratory

What are the causes of Respiratory Acidosis?

Causes of respiratory acidosis include:

  • Diseases of the airways, such as asthma and COPD
  • Diseases of the lung tissue, such as pulmonary fibrosis, which causes scarring and thickening of the lungs
  • Diseases that can affect the chest, such as scoliosis
  • Diseases affecting the nerves and muscles that signal the lungs to inflate or deflate
  • Medicines that suppress breathing, including powerful pain medicines, such as narcotics (opioids), and "downers," such as benzodiazepines, often when combined with alcohol
  • Severe obesity, which restricts how much the lungs can expand
  • Obstructive sleep apnea

Chronic respiratory acidosis occurs over a long time. This leads to a stable situation, because the kidneys increase body chemicals, such as bicarbonate, that help restore the body's acid-base balance.

Acute respiratory acidosis is a condition in which carbon dioxide builds up very quickly, before the kidneys can return the body to a state of balance.

Some people with chronic respiratory acidosis get acute respiratory acidosis because an acute illness makes their condition worse and disrupts their body's acid-base balance.

What are the symptoms of Respiratory Acidosis?

Symptoms may include:

  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Easy fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sleepiness
  • Tremors (shaking)
  • Warm and flushed skin
  • Sweating
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What are the current treatments for Respiratory Acidosis?

Treatment is aimed at the underlying disease, and may include:

  • Bronchodilator medicines and corticosteroids to reverse some types of airway obstruction
  • Noninvasive positive-pressure ventilation (sometimes called CPAP or BiPAP) or a breathing machine, if needed
  • Oxygen if the blood oxygen level is low
  • Treatment to stop smoking
  • For severe cases, a breathing machine (ventilator) might be needed
  • Changing medicines when appropriate
Who are the top Respiratory Acidosis Local Doctors?
Highly rated in

Frankston Hospital

Melbourne, VIC, AU 

Ravindranath Tiruvoipati is in Melbourne, Australia. Tiruvoipati is rated as an Elite expert by MediFind in the treatment of Respiratory Acidosis. They are also highly rated in 2 other conditions, according to our data. Their top areas of expertise are Respiratory Acidosis, Metabolic Acidosis, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, and Sepsis.

Highly rated in
Pulmonary Medicine

ILD Program

San Francisco, CA 

Jeffrey Golden is a Pulmonary Medicine doctor in San Francisco, California. Dr. Golden has been practicing medicine for over 50 years and is rated as a Distinguished doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Respiratory Acidosis. He is also highly rated in 9 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Respiratory Acidosis, Metabolic Acidosis, CMV Retinitis, and Cytomegalic Inclusion Disease. He is board certified in Pulmonary Disease and Internal Medicine and licensed to treat patients in California. Dr. Golden is currently accepting new patients.

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Highly rated in

Université Grenoble Alpes

Grenoble, FR 

Claude Racinet is in Grenoble, France. Racinet is rated as a Distinguished expert by MediFind in the treatment of Respiratory Acidosis. He is also highly rated in 3 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Respiratory Acidosis, Metabolic Acidosis, Cerebral Palsy, and Spastic Diplegia Infantile Type.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Respiratory Acidosis?

How well you do depends on the disease causing the respiratory acidosis.

What are the possible complications of Respiratory Acidosis?

Complications that may result include:

  • Poor organ function
  • Respiratory failure
  • Shock
When should I contact a medical professional for Respiratory Acidosis?

Severe respiratory acidosis is a medical emergency. Seek medical help right away if you have symptoms of this condition.

Call your provider if you have symptoms of lung disease that suddenly get worse.

How do I prevent Respiratory Acidosis?

DO NOT smoke. Smoking leads to the development of many severe lung diseases that can cause respiratory acidosis.

Losing weight may help prevent respiratory acidosis due to obesity (obesity-hypoventilation syndrome).

Be careful about taking sedating medicines, and never combine these medicines with alcohol.

Use your CPAP device regularly if it has been prescribed for you.

Respiratory system
What are the latest Respiratory Acidosis Clinical Trials?
High Flow Nasal Oxygen Versus Nasal Continuous Positive Airway Pressure in Obese Patients Undergoing Deep Sedation for Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography: A Randomized Controlled Trial
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Will Titrated Oxygen Flow to a Peripheral Oxygen Saturation of 88-92% Compared With Oxygen Flow to a Saturation >94% Reduce Mortality in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Patients With Acute Exacerbation? - a Randomized Clinical Trial
What are the Latest Advances for Respiratory Acidosis?
A Rapidly Progressive Case of Ectopic Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH) Syndrome.
Impact of HACOR Score on Noninvasive Ventilation Failure in Non-COPD Patients with Acute-on-Chronic Respiratory Failure.
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Implementation of new ECMO centers during the COVID-19 pandemic: experience and results from the Middle East and India.
What are our references for Respiratory Acidosis?

Effros RM, Swenson ER. Acid-base balance. In: Broaddus VC, Mason RJ, Ernst JD, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 7.

Seifter JL. Acid-base disorders. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 110.

Strayer RJ. Acid-base disorders. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 116.