Respiratory failure happens when not enough oxygen passes from your lungs into your blood. Your body's organs, such as your heart and brain, need oxygen-rich blood to work well. Respiratory failure also can happen if your lungs can't remove carbon dioxide (a waste gas) from your blood. Too much carbon dioxide in your blood can harm your body's organs.

Diseases and conditions that affect your breathing can cause respiratory failure. Examples include

  • Lung diseases such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), pneumonia, pulmonary embolism, and cystic fibrosis
  • Conditions that affect the nerves and muscles that control breathing, such as spinal cord injuries, muscular dystrophy and stroke
  • Damage to the tissues and ribs around the lungs. An injury to the chest can cause this damage.
  • Drug or alcohol overdose
  • Injuries from inhaling smoke or harmful fumes

Treatment for respiratory failure depends on whether the condition is acute (short-term) or chronic (ongoing) and how severe it is. It also depends on the underlying cause. You may receive oxygen therapy and other treatment to help you breathe.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Symptoms of Respiratory Failure

The following features are indicative of Respiratory Failure:
  • shortness of breath
  • rapid breathing
  • air hunger
  • bluish color on your skin, lips, and fingernails
  • confusion
  • sleepiness
  • irregular heartbeats

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Common Causes of Respiratory Failure

The following are the most common causes of Respiratory Failure:
  • lung diseases
  • spinal cord injuries
  • too much carbon dioxide in blood
  • when lungs can't easily move oxygen into blood
  • injury to the chest
  • alcohol consumption

Risk Factors for Respiratory Failure

The following factors may increase the likelihood of Respiratory Failure:
  • people with lung diseases
  • smoking
  • sepsis
  • alcohol consumption
  • injury to the chest

Prevention of Respiratory Failure

Yes, it may be possible to prevent Respiratory Failure. Prevention may be possible by doing the following:
  • avoid smoking
  • limit alcohol consumption

Occurrence of Respiratory Failure

Number of Cases

The following are the number of Respiratory Failure cases seen each year worldwide:
  • Very common > 10 Million cases

Common Age Group

Respiratory Failure can occur at any age.

Common Gender

Respiratory Failure can occur in any gender.

Lab Tests and Procedures for Diagnosis of Respiratory Failure

The following lab tests and procedures are used to detect Respiratory Failure:
  • Physical Exam: To look for the signs and causes of respiratory failure
  • Pulse oximetry: To measure the amount of oxygen in your blood
  • Arterial blood gas test: To measure the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in your blood
  • Chest X ray: To determine the cause of respiratory failure
  • Electrocardiogram: To detect and record the heart's electrical activity

Doctor for Diagnosis of Respiratory Failure

Patients should visit the following specialists if they have symptoms of Respiratory Failure:
  • Pulmonologist
  • Physician
  • Allergist

Complications of Respiratory Failure if untreated

Yes, Respiratory Failure causes complications if it is not treated. Below is the list of complications and problems that may arise if Respiratory Failure is left untreated:
  • anxiety
  • stress
  • can be fatal

Procedures for Treatment of Respiratory Failure

The following procedures are used to treat Respiratory Failure:
  • Oxygen therapy: Supports breathing and blows air with increased amount of oxygen into your airways and then your lungs

Self-care for Respiratory Failure

The following self-care actions or lifestyle changes may help in the treatment or management of Respiratory Failure:
  • Get regular exercise: Prevents from asthma attacks
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Reduces the worsening asthma
  • Avoid smoking
  • Avoid exposure to asbestos
  • Avoid secondhand smoke

Alternative Medicine for Treatment of Respiratory Failure

The following alternate medicine and therapies are known to help in the treatment or management of Respiratory Failure:
  • Practice breathing exercises: Improves the asthma symptoms
  • Using herbal and natural remedies: Improves asthma symptoms
  • Practicing acupuncture technique: Lowers the pain and ease cancer treatment side effects
  • Using Hypnosis method: Relieves anxiety, nausea and pain in people with cancer
  • Reguar massage: Reduces anxiety and pain in people with cancer
  • Practicing meditation: Lowers stress and improve quality of life in people with cancer
  • Practicing Yoga: Helps people with cancer sleep better

Patient Support for Treatment of Respiratory Failure

The following actions may help Respiratory Failure patients:
  • Joining a patient support group: Helpful in sharing your feelings with the individuals with same disease
  • Support from family and friends: Helps in relieving stress and anxiety

Related Topics

Last updated date

This page was last updated on 2/04/2019.
This page provides information for Respiratory Failure.

Related Topics

Lung Diseases

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