Respiratory Failure


When you breathe, your blood takes in oxygen. And it gets rid of a waste gas called "carbon dioxide." When you have respiratory failure, this process isn't working like it should. You may not get enough oxygen to meet your body's needs. You may not remove enough carbon dioxide from your blood. Or, you may have both problems.


What causes respiratory failure? It happens when something interferes with your breathing. It can happen quickly, or it can develop slowly over time. It may result from an infection or disease that affects the lungs. It can happen if your lungs are damaged by smoke or harmful fumes. It can be caused by an injury or problem with your spine or spinal cord. It can result from a stroke. And, it can also result from a drug or alcohol overdose.


What are the symptoms? A person who has respiratory failure may feel like they can't get enough air. They may have shortness of breath. They may breathe rapidly. Their skin, lips and fingernails may turn a bluish color. They may feel tired and confused. And they may pass out.


How do we treat it? If respiratory failure happens suddenly, it may be a medical emergency. Get help as soon as possible. If it develops slowly over time, you may be able to manage the symptoms at home. You may benefit from medication, oxygen therapy and other methods. Your doctor will create a care plan that's right for you.