Yes. Hypercapnia, also known as hypercarbia or CO2 retention, is a condition that occurs when there are elevated levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the blood.Â CO2 is a by-product of metabolism and is usually removed from the body in sufficient amounts through the lungs when you exhale. Although it can be caused by a number of conditions including hypoventilation (breathing at an abnormally slow rate) and narcotic drug overdose, one of the most common causes of hypercapnia is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Although some people attribute CO2 retention in COPD to hypoventilation, the most common cause of hypercapnia in COPD is a defect in the lungs called ventilation-perfusion (V/Q) mismatch. V/Q mismatch occurs when ventilation (the exchange of air between the lungs and the environment) and perfusion (the passage of blood through the lungs) are not evenly matched. When V/Q mismatch occurs, the transfer of all gases by the lungs â€“ including anesthetic gases â€“is impaired.
Besides hypoventilation and V/Q mismatch, there are a number of other conditions that can cause hypercapnia, including:
People with mild hypercapnia may not even know they have it, or they may have a headache, appear flushed and be warm to the touch. Left untreated, hypercapnia can cause the following symptoms:
Treatment of hypercapnia depends on its severity and should be directed towards the underlying cause of the V/Q mismatch as well as increasing the amount of air moving into the alveoli (air sacs). It most often involves either of the following:
If you have COPD, familiarizing yourself with the symptoms of hypercapnia will help you recognize them should you ever experience them yourself. Early recognition of symptoms leads to earlier diagnosis and treatment.Â Early treatment of hypercapnia helps reduce the risk of intubation and mechanical ventilation.
For more information about hypercapnia, contact your primary care provider.
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