Untreated respiratory depression can be fatal. How do you recognize the disorder before it is too late? Learn the main symptoms of hypoventilation
- How do we recognize the lack of ventilation? The main symptoms
- Respiratory depression – causes
- Hyperventilation and hyperventilation – how are they different?
- How do we treat respiratory depression?
Respiratory depression (hypoventilation) is a breathing disorder in which you suddenly lose the rate and depth of your breathing. It is characterized by slow and ineffective breathing. During hypoventilation, the body does not remove the appropriate amount of carbon dioxide from the body, resulting in hypoxia of the entire body. The severity of respiratory depression can vary. In the mild form, the patient may not be aware of the disorder at all. However, respiratory depression can also lead to sudden respiratory arrest and death.
How do we recognize the lack of ventilation? The main symptoms
Symptoms of hypoventilation vary from person to person. Mild symptoms include chronic fatigue, drowsiness, sluggishness, shallow breathing; As the disease progresses and the level of carbon dioxide increases, the patient develops alarming symptoms, such as:
- Change in the color of the lips and fingers (become bluish).
- Severe headache
While breathing faster is not typical of hypoventilation, it can happen to some people who want to get rid of carbon dioxide as quickly as possible. It’s a normal reaction.
Respiratory depression – causes
Respiratory depression can occur for many reasons, but it is usually associated with a chronic illness. The most common causes of respiratory depression are:
- Neuromuscular diseases (which cause weakness of the muscles that control breathing).
- Obesity (making the body overburdened)
- brain damage
- Deformity of the chest wall (impairing the ability to inhale and exhale)
- Obstructive sleep apnea (air passages collapse during sleep)
- Chronic lung diseases (including cystic fibrosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. These diseases block the airways)
Hypoventilation can also occur with some medications (eg, antidepressants).
Hyperventilation and hyperventilation – how are they different?
Hypoventilation is different from hyperventilation. Hyperventilation occurs when we breathe too quickly, which lowers the level of carbon dioxide in the blood. Hyperventilation occurs when the patient gasps for breath at least 20 times per minute. In hypoventilation, which is the opposite of hyperventilation, the removal of carbon dioxide is insufficient.
How do we treat respiratory depression?
Treatment of respiratory depression is always associated with eliminating the exact cause that leads to respiratory disorders. If we notice symptoms of hypoventilation, we should contact a doctor as soon as possible. Remember that untreated respiratory depression is a threat to health and life. After a thorough medical history, the specialist will usually order tests that include:
- Basic blood test (hematocrit and hemoglobin)
- chest x-ray
- lung function test
- Gasometry (a blood test that measures the amount of carbon dioxide, oxygen, and acid-base balance in the blood)
- pulse oximetry test
Respiratory depression can be effectively treated. In many cases, lifestyle changes or stopping medication for the time being will suffice. Some patients undergo surgery (eg, nasal septal surgery for obstructive sleep apnea). Urgent consultation with your doctor is important to prevent serious complications of respiratory depression.
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