What is Kussmaul Breathing?

Kussmaul Breathing is the name given to a condition in which the patient develops an extremely deep and labored breathing pattern. This is seen mostly in people who are diabetic and have severe forms of metabolic acidosis, especially diabetic ketoacidosis with kidney dysfunction. Kussmaul Breathing can also be explained as a form of hyperventilation which is a condition in which an individual breathes in such a deep pattern that the level of carbon dioxide decreases in the blood, which is seen mostly in metabolic acidosis where the breathing becomes extremely fast and shallow and as the condition worsens the breathing becomes shallow and deep and it looks as if the individual is virtually gasping for breath. This type of breathing in which the individual is virtually gasping for air is what is termed as Kussmaul Breathing.

What is Kussmaul Breathing?

What Can Cause Kussmaul Breathing?

Kussmaul Breathing is a condition which results due to low levels of carbon dioxide in the blood. It is normally seen in people who have uncontrolled diabetes to level where they develop diabetic ketoacidosis resulting in the patient to have a very shallow and deep breathing. The carbon dioxide level decreases due to the desire of the individual to take a deep breath and exhale more amount of carbon dioxide than the norm resulting in a marked decrease in the level of carbon dioxide in the blood causing hyperventilation or Kussmaul Breathing. The conditions which can cause Kussmaul Breathing are:

Diabetic Ketoacidosis: Diabetic ketoacidosis is a condition in which the glucose present in the blood is not able to be used by the body to produce energy because of severe need for insulin which is not there. This results in the inability of the body to get rid of the glucose to produce energy for the body.

Metabolic Acidosis: This is a medical condition in which there is a substantial increase in the levels of lactic acid in the blood stream. This build up od lactic acid in the bloodstream results in kidney dysfunction it becomes difficult for the kidneys to maintain a balance between acid and bases in the body or what can be called as a balanced pH in the body since the kidneys are not able to filter out the excess lactic acid in the body. This eventually results in Kussmaul Breathing.

Pneumonia: This is also one of the causes of Kussmaul Breathing. Pneumonia is predominantly an infection of the lungs. In this condition the alveoli get filled with fluid and hamper the normal breathing pattern of the individual and ends up having Kussmaul Breathing.

Kidney Failure: As stated above if there is a kidney dysfunction, excess acid buildup in body is not able to be filtered out of the body resulting in an imbalance in the pH in the body causing complications like Kussmaul Breathing. Before the onset of Kussmaul Breathing, the patient will have other symptoms pointing towards a kidney failure like decreased urine output, swelling of the lower extremities, nausea, and vomiting.

Peritonitis: This is also one of the medical conditions that can cause Kussmaul Breathing. This is a medical condition in which the peritoneum becomes inflamed or swollen. This may be as a result of malfunction of the liver. When this condition worsens it leads to complications which include Kussmaul Breathing.

How is Kussmaul Breathing Treated?

The treatment for Kussmaul Breathing depends upon the underlying condition which in majority of the cases is uncontrolled diabetes or kidney failure. The underlying cause for the uncontrolled diabetes or renal failure needs to be treated first which may automatically treat Kussmaul Breathing. In cases of metabolic acidosis as a cause for Kussmaul Breathing, the treatment focuses on balancing the pH scales in the body so as to stabilize the individual after which the underlying cause needs to be addressed. For Kussmaul Breathing, it is extremely vital to make sure that the airways of the patient remains clear and there are no obstructions. It may be tough to immediately identify whether the patient is going into Kussmaul Breathing. There may be breathing problems experienced by the patients but unless if a physician is alert enough to be on a lookout for development of Kussmaul Breathing then it may be difficult to diagnose. If there is a risk of a patient having abnormal pH levels it becomes important to put the patient in the hospital environment so that the levels and other blood chemistry may be monitored and the patient may be given appropriate treatment to prevent him or her to develop Kussmaul Breathing.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: July 7, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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