Hypercapnia - Causes and Symptoms
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What Is Hypercapnia/ Hypercarbia: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Hypercapnia is a condition characterized by an increase in the amount of carbon dioxide present in the blood .
The cause of this phenomenon is often to be found in anomalies affecting lung or cardiac functioning, which lead to inadequate alveolar ventilation and are accompanied by alterations in the acid-base balance (such as respiratory acidosis ). Hypercapnia is defined, in particular, by a partial pressure of carbon dioxide in the blood above 45 millimeters of mercury (mmHg); normally, pCO2 remains between 35 and 45 mmHg.

Depending on the severity of the condition, there are different symptoms that can occur in association with hypercapnia. These manifestations include dyspnea , vigorous use of accessory respiratory muscles , tachypnea , increased heart rate ( tachycardia ) or extrasystoles , sweating , muscle spasms , increased blood pressure, and paradoxical abdominal movement .

The manifestations affecting the central nervous system range from confusion to loss of consciousness or coma . In some cases, the patient’s death may also occur. Chronic hypercapnia is usually better tolerated than acute hypercapnia, as well as having fewer symptoms.

The main causes of hypercapnia are the same as hypoventilation and include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease , acute exacerbations of asthma and pulmonary emphysema . Chronic bronchitis , pneumonia , drowning, pulmonary edema and embolism , states of respiratory failure and other obstructive airway diseases can also cause hypercapnia .

Increased carbon dioxide in the blood may also be seen in patients with heart conditions (such as angina , myocardial infarction , and cor pulmonale ), stroke , head trauma , and rib fractures .

Additionally, hypercarbia can be caused by breathing air that is too laden with carbon dioxide.

Other causes are intoxications from drugs that suppress the breathing center and pathologies that cause weakness of the respiratory muscles (e.g. Guillain-Barré syndrome , myasthenia gravis and botulism ).

Conditions that increase carbon dioxide production, as occurs in the setting of febrile states , sepsis , trauma , burns , hyperthyroidism , and malignant hyperthermia , when combined with the inability to compensate for ventilation, can also cause hypercapnia.

Possible Causes Of Hypercapnia

Hypercapnia is a common or probable symptom of these diseases

Common Causes

  • Asthma
  • COPD
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Emphysema
  • Respiratory failure
  • Pneumonia
  • Pickwickian syndrome

Rare Causes

  • Unstable Angina
  • Angina pectoris
  • Sleep apnea
  • Aspergillosis
  • Botulism
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Bronchitis
  • Croup
  • Cor pulmonale
  • Respiratory Distress
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Malignant hyperthermia
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Obesity
  • Sepsis
  • Symptoms of heart failure
  • Burns

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