Causes And Symptoms Of Compensated Respiratory Acidosis

compensated respiratory acidosis lungs

Kaitlin Floyd

Kaitlin Floyd
Kaitlin Floyd

Updated on 12/7/2022

The presence of an excessive amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the lungs can cause a condition known as compensated respiratory acidosis. Your body fluids and blood become acidic as a result of the significant amount of CO2, reaching a point where your blood pH is higher than 45 mm Hg before swiftly dropping to adjust for the acidity.

Blood pressure is measured using a system that is denoted by the abbreviation mm Hg, which refers to the units of millimeters of mercury. Your blood pH should fall anywhere between 35 and 45 millimeters of mercury, as is common.

When your ability to breathe is restricted, whether, by an illness, another ailment, or physical obstruction, you are at risk of developing respiratory acidosis. There are two possible presentations of respiratory acidosis: chronic and asymptomatic or acute and manifest.

Causes Of Respiratory Acidosis

compensated respiratory acidosis lungs

Because of the increased levels of carbon dioxide in your body, your blood will become extremely acidic, which will cause your kidneys to create more acidic hydrogen and ammonium in order to absorb the bicarbonate. However, the carbon dioxide might initially cause a disturbance in the body. The response of the kidneys to the change in pH results in excess acid being produced in the blood. The term "compensation" is used when referring to this type of response in the medical field.

The causes of respiratory acidosis will vary depending on whether you have acute respiratory acidosis, chronic respiratory acidosis, or both acute and chronic respiratory acidosis. In addition, the severity of the respiratory acidosis, as well as the medical circumstances surrounding it, will each play a key role in shaping the individual's experience with the condition. ‌

The Factors That Contribute To Acute Respiratory Acidosis

compensated respiratory acidosis lungs

The abrupt entry of carbon dioxide into the lungs is the defining characteristic of acute respiratory acidosis. Acute respiratory acidosis is characterized by its quick onset, which makes the underlying reasons easier to identify and possibly more surprising. Because of how quickly acute respiratory acidosis manifests its symptoms, the kidney's reaction to the condition can be measured in minutes rather than hours.

Some of the causes are as follows:

  • Accidents of the cerebrovascular system, such as strokes
  • Medications such as opioids, benzodiazepines, and pain medication all have the effect of slowing down the neurological system.
  • Myasthenia gravis is a condition in which the patient's voluntary muscles either become weak, or they become uncontrollable.
  • Muscular dystrophy refers to a collection of disorders that cause a person to gradually lose their muscular mass by interfering with the ability of a person's genes to produce muscle.
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome is an extremely uncommon form of neurological condition in which the patient's immune system turns against itself. This can result in a variety of issues, ranging from difficulty eating to complete paralysis of the body.
  • obstruction of the airways
  • Cardiac arrest (heart attack)

compensated respiratory acidosis

The Factors That Contribute To Chronic Respiratory Acidosis

On the other hand, chronic respiratory acidosis is typically just one of many symptoms that point to a more serious underlying illness. In most cases, this condition develops at a less severe level than acute respiratory acidosis and at a more gradual pace. People who have respiratory acidosis bodies over an extended period of time are frequently desensitized to particular aspects of respiratory acidosis. The most common of them would be becoming acclimated to a lower oxygen rate than what is required for your tissues to be adequately supplied with blood, which is also referred to as hypoxemia. This would be the most prevalent cause of hypoxemia. They might even consider their symptoms to be normal for them.

These conditions could include the following:

  • COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and refers to a set of conditions that affect both airflow and breathing. These conditions include emphysema and bronchitis, among others.
  • Asthma
  • Conditions that manifest themselves in the lung tissue, such as pulmonary fibrosis
  • Diseases affecting the muscles or the nerves


  • Obesity
  • Sleep apnea
  • Thoracic skeletal anomalies that cause your rib cage, pecs, or sternum to be shaped in such a way that it restricts your breathing or the operation of your lungs are referred to as restrictive pulmonary hypertension.

Symptoms That May Happen

The following are examples of symptoms of respiratory acidosis:

  • Hyperventilating
  • Uneasy and shallow breaths
  • Fatigue
  • Constant and ongoing fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Sweating
  • Flushed skin
  • Loss of memory

compensated respiratory acidosis

  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Tremors
  • Walking with difficulty
  • Refluxes of the tendon that is slower
  • Twitching occurs involuntarily in the muscles.
  • Papilledema is an inflammation of the ocular nerves caused by increased pressure in the skull.
  • Hypoxia is characterized by a deficiency of oxygen in both the blood and the tissues. ‌

In most cases, respiratory acidosis is merely a sign of a more serious underlying health problem. In the event that this condition is left untreated, it has the potential to cause the symptoms of respiratory acidosis to become more severe and obvious. Even further, it may result in:

  • Organ failure
  • Shock
  • Coma
  • A great deal of harm done to the kidneys
  • Seizures
  • Intracranial pressure


The degree of respiratory acidosis, the symptoms it causes, and the factors that led to it can all have a role in whether or not it results in mortality. When there is a discernible reason, it is necessary for that cause to be eliminated or otherwise addressed.

The following is a list of some of the most prevalent types of treatments for these underlying diseases:

  • Medications that assist in the dilation of the bronchi
  • Drugs that reduce inflammation to alleviate the discomfort of any edoema that may be restrictive
  • Devices that assist with breathing, such as CPAP and BiPAP machines
  • Oxygen tubes
  • Alternative treatments, including medication, for quitting smoking
  • Several distinct drugs
  • Naloxone (for opioid overdose) (for opioid overdose)

Examining Patients For Signs Of Respiratory Acidosis

compensated respiratory acidosis

If you suspect that you have respiratory acidosis, you should get tested by a qualified medical practitioner so that you can determine the severity of your condition. This is especially important to keep in mind if you suffer from persistent respiratory acidosis, which can be difficult to diagnose.

These tests will most likely consist of the following:

Serum Bicarbonate Testing

This test will determine the amount of carbon dioxide that is present in your blood, and it is considered to be one of the most crucial tests to get done for respiratory acidosis. It is a process that is not particularly intrusive and only requires a needle to be inserted into the arm in order to obtain a blood sample.

Blood Pressure Arterial Blood Glass (ABV)

compensated respiratory acidosis

The results of these tests reveal both the acidity of your blood as well as the equilibrium of its oxygen and carbon content. Collecting a sample of blood for this examination also requires the use of a needle.

Your healthcare provider may wish to perform other tests related to your muscles, kidneys, sleep, or respiration in addition to these tests. Everything hinges on your specific medical condition, as well as the underlying cause(s) and potential causes(s) of your respiratory acidosis.


Stopping or never starting to smoke cigarettes is the most effective approach to protect oneself against developing respiratory acidosis. Additionally, being overweight or obese substantially raises the risk of developing compensated respiratory acidosis in person. You could prevent developing it all together by reducing the amount of weight you carry.

In addition, if your doctor has prescribed you powerful pain medicine or opioids, it is absolutely essential that you abstain from drinking alcohol while you are on these medications.