What Is Hypercapnia?

By jolene
Reviewed: Dr. Gromatzky
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The term “hypercapnia” can be defined as abnormal elevation of carbon dioxide levels in the blood. “Hyper” translates to “too much” in Greek while “kapnos” means “smoke.” Hypercapnia can also be known as carbon dioxide retention or hypercarbia.

Due to the metabolism in the body, carbon dioxide is expelled through the lungs. In conditions where there is reduced clearance of air from the alveoli, carbon dioxide accumulation can occur. When this occurs, there can be respiratory acidosis causing the body the compensate for the increasing acidity.

1. Respiratory Acidosis

Respiratory acidosis is a condition where there is decreased ventilation, resulting in the increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the blood. The accumulation of carbon dioxide in the blood decreases the pH of the blood, making it more acidic. Hence, it is known as acidosis. As respiration continues, carbon dioxide is produced and accumulates rapidly if the lungs are unable to expel it. Due to this, hypercapnia occurs. Respiratory acidosis can be divided into acute and chronic. Acute acidosis occurs when there is abrupt ventilation failure due to depression of the respiratory center (in the brain), or neuromuscular disease. Chronic acidosis can occur in various disorders such as COPD, obesity hypoventilation syndrome, neuromuscular diseases, and interstitial lung disease.


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