What Causes Carbon Dioxide Levels to Increase in the Body?

An increase in the carbon dioxide levels in the body is medically referred to as Hypercapnia. The carbon dioxide levels in the body can increase due to numerous factors with COPD being the primary factor. Some of the other medical conditions that can increase carbon dioxide levels in the body are sleep apnea, obesity, certain activities like underwater sports to include scuba diving, being on a ventilator for prolonged period of time. The levels of carbon dioxide can also increase due to common illnesses like fever and infections.

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Another cause for increase of carbon dioxide levels in the body is problem with functioning of the lungs. The lungs have air sacs called alveoli from where oxygen is transferred to the blood and carbon dioxide is transferred to the air sacs from the blood from where it is expelled out of the body. This process is called gas exchange. If lungs are not functioning normally then the gas exchange is not proper leading to increased carbon dioxide levels in the body.

Certain neuromuscular condition can also cause increased carbon dioxide levels in the body. Medical conditions like muscular dystrophy, Guillain-Barre syndrome are known to cause increased levels of oxygen in the body.

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Symptoms of Too Much Carbon Dioxide in the Body

The symptoms of excessive carbon dioxide levels in the body are variable and can range from mild to severe. If the levels of carbon dioxide are mildly elevated then the body by itself and brings down the levels to normal. Some of the symptoms that can be observed when there is a mild increase in the carbon dioxide levels in the body are flushing of the skin, increased drowsiness, headaches, dizziness, mild shortness of breath, a general sense of malaise.

If the symptoms persist or gets worse then it is advisable to consult a doctor right away for treatment to rule out other conditions that may be causing the symptoms.

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A significant increase in the levels of carbon dioxide in the body can be extremely serious and potentially life threatening since the respiratory system starts to shut down. This is a medical emergency and the individual should be taken to the emergency room for immediate treatment.

The primary symptoms observed due to too much increase in carbon dioxide levels in the body are extreme difficulty breathing, sudden periods of mental confusion, feeling of depression, muscle twitching, arrhythmias, hyperventilation, seizures, panic attacks, and syncopal episodes.

Ways to Get Rid of Carbon Dioxide in the Body

Too much increase in carbon dioxide levels in the body can be serious and requires immediate medical attention. The frontline treatment for excess carbon dioxide levels in the body can be treated by putting the patient on mechanical ventilation till the time the patient is able to breathe normally.

There are two types of ventilation given for high carbon dioxide levels in the body, invasive and noninvasive:

Noninvasive Ventilation: In noninvasive ventilation, breathing is assisted by air that comes through a nasal mask. This form of treatment is given for patients with sleep apnea. Noninvasive ventilation keeps the airways open even at night to keep the breathing controlled.

Invasive/Mechanical Ventilation: This is given to those patients who are not conscious or their lungs are not functioning to allow adequate breathing. A tube is inserted into the airways through the mouth through which oxygen is passed to regulate breathing. This process is called intubation. This mode of ventilation is only used in patients with exceedingly high levels of carbon dioxide in their blood.

Medications: There are also certain medications that assist with breathing in people with high levels of carbon dioxide. Antibiotics are given for treatment of respiratory infections like pneumonia. Bronchodilators are given for conditions like COPD which keep the airways open. Sometimes, corticosteroids are also given to regulate breathing on people with high levels of carbon dioxide in the body.

Oxygen Therapy: This mode of delivering oxygen utilizes a breathing tube attached to the lungs. This treatment helps to balance out the excess carbon dioxide levels with equal levels of oxygen in the body.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: October 5, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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