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What are the Signs of Respiratory Acidosis?

lungs.jpg

A Simple Respiratory Acidosis Definition



Before learning the symptoms and signs of respiratory acidosis, we should know how to define the condition. This medical condition is said to be present when the pH of the blood drops below 7.35 as a result of hypoventilation (below normal breathing rate). The pH scale runs from 0 to 14, with 0 being the most acidic, and 14 being the most basic. The mid-line point is 7. So, we can see that the body needs to remain within the very narrow range of 7.35 to 7.45.

Symptoms and Signs



A symptom is something that is NOT seen, such as a headache. A sign is what can be seen and/or measured, such as the rate of a person's breathing. The number of breaths can be counted and visible chest rise can be seen. The symptoms and signs of respiratory acidosis include the following:

1. Headache
2. Bradypnea (slow rate of breathing)
3. Hypercalcemia (high levels of calcium in serum)
4. Nausea and vomiting
5. Skin that is red and flushed
6. Systemic and/or cerebral dilation of vessels
7. Depression of the central nervous system

Causes of Respiratory Acidosis



Remember that hypoventilation leads to seeing the symptoms and signs of respiratory acidosis. Therefore, when speaking of the causes of this condition, it is important to consider what caused a patient's breathing rate to be low. This is what determines whether the acidosis is serious and potentially life-threatening or whether it is survivable, at least for a period of time.

Obstruction of the airway, submersion sickness (drowning), trauma to the chest or head, carbon-monoxide poisoning, and pulmonary edema are among the causes of acidosis. Also, an overdose of a drug that depresses the central nervous system can cause hypoventilation. Cardiac and/or respiratory arrest obviously leads to the development of the signs of respiratory acidosis that is considered life-threatening. The condition develops suddenly. This is acute acidosis.

People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) develop respiratory acidosis gradually as damaged lung tissue interferes with the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. However, because the onset of this form of acidosis (chronic) takes place over a period of time, it is survivable. The renal system of the body has time to offer some kind of compensation for the problem, unlike in the case of acute acidosis.

One of the purposes for breathing is to remove carbon dioxide, which if allowed to remain in the body, leads to increased levels of carbonic ACID--thus, acidosis. There are many changes that take place as a result, and that threaten life. For example, potassium ions shift into spaces outside of cells, which results in hypercalcemia (mentioned above). Life threatening cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) can develop and quickly lead to pulselessness (cardiac arrest).

Signs of respiratory acidosis must be treated by a medical doctor. However, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), paramedics, respiratory therapists, and nurses are among the health care providers who learn about the condition. It is always helpful to understand the physiology behind medical conditions.

Related Reading


Abnormal Respiratory Patterns: Signs and Medical Terms

EMS Respiratory Patient Assessment

Lung Infections: Elecampane and Cherry Tree Bark Tea

Christian Paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians: The Challenges Faced


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