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Respiratory Failure

Respiratory Failure

Most people don’t think about breathing. It just happens. When respiratory failure makes it hard to breathe, that changes.

Respiratory failure can be caused by anything affecting your lungs. This includes diseases, spinal issues, chest injuries, alcohol or drug overdoses and more. Left untreated, respiratory failure can be deadly.

Some cases of respiratory failure are acute (short-lived), while others are chronic (ongoing). With respiratory failure, your lungs don’t supply enough oxygen to your blood and carbon dioxide can build in your body. This buildup damages your body’s cells and makes it harder for oxygen to get into your blood.

Respiratory Failure Symptoms

Symptoms of respiratory failure can begin suddenly or build over time. Common symptoms include:

  • Blue lips, fingers or toes
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion or loss of consciousness
  • Extreme tiredness when climbing stairs or doing other daily activities
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath or feeling that you can’t get enough air
  • Unexplainable drowsiness

Diagnosis and Treatment for Respiratory Failure

Diagnosis begins with a physical exam and evaluation of your medical history. You’ll also undergo testing to determine the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood. Tests range from a simple blood test to biopsy (or sample) of lung tissue.

Treatment depends on the cause, severity and frequency of your condition.

  • Lifestyle changes reduce your risk of future problems. Don’t smoke, limit alcohol consumption and exercise regularly.
  • Oxygen therapy allows you to breathe in pure oxygen. This allows more oxygen to get to your blood and reduce your symptoms.
  • Medication can reduce symptoms. It may reduce inflammation, help you breathe better or treat the condition causing your problem.
  • Other treatment may be helpful. This may include use of a ventilator (device that blows air into your lungs) or surgery.

Contact Us for More Information

MultiCare pulmonary and critical care specialists can provide you with diagnostic and therapeutic options to manage your respiratory health. Find a pulmonologist or contact the MultiCare Pulmonary Specialists clinic near you to learn more.