One with respiratory failure will not be able to breathe freely on his/her own as respiratory failure happens when the lungs are not able to receive enough oxygen into the blood thus, one will struggle to breathe and may require oxygen therapy. It is essential to seek timely medical attention without any delay.

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Arvind Kate, Pulmonologist at Zen Multispecialty Hospital, shared, “Respiratory failure is seen when the respiratory system fails to take out enough carbon dioxide from your blood, building up in your body. Respiratory failure can be classified into two types - acute and chronic respiratory failure: hypoxemic and hypercapnic. You will be shocked to know that these fatal conditions can lead to severe complications.”

He added, “Moreover, hypoxemic respiratory failure, or hypoxemia, happens when one doesn’t have the required amount of oxygen in the blood. One is known to have hypercapnic respiratory failure or hypercapnia when there is a large amount of carbon dioxide in the blood.”

Talking about causes of respiratory failure, he revealed, “One can have respiratory failure owing to obstruction in the throat if something gets stuck up there, a spinal cord, or a brain injury that impacts the breathing process. Moreover, acute respiratory distress syndrome owing to pneumonia, sepsis, head trauma and pancreatitis can also invite respiratory failure. Also, inhaling the smoke (from fires) or harmful fumes can lead to this condition.”

As for the risk factors, he highlighted smoking, alcohol, a family history of respiratory disease or conditions, a weak immune system and chronic respiratory conditions, such as lung cancer, COPD or asthma can cause respiratory failure. According to him, “Those who are known to have low levels of oxygen can experience symptoms like shortness of breath, drowsiness, and difficulty in doing daily activities, such as dressing or climbing stairs because of tiredness. Ones with high carbon dioxide levels tend to encounter rapid breathing, confusion, and headaches. One will be suggested treatment after the diagnosis is confirmed.”

As for the complications, Dr Arvind Kate said, “Unmanaged respiratory failure can turn fatal for you. It can lead to pulmonary embolism, pulmonary fibrosis, pneumonia, pneumothorax (collapsed lung) renal (kidney) failure, and hepatic (liver) failure.” Highlighting the treatment, he said, “If you are having difficulty then you will be prescribed pain medication to help you breathe freely. Even a breathing tube can be inserted into the mouth or nose and connected the tube to a ventilator to allow you to breathe. Oxygen therapy can be advised to help you breathe. Apart from that, even a tracheotomy can be done if required.”

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