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Respiratory depression; Symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment

Study guide

Normal breathing is essential for the survival of any human being, whether awake or asleep. Sometimes he has problems with his respiratory system due to various diseases or complications and cannot do his job well. One of these problems is respiratory depression or hypoventilation, also known as hypoventilation syndrome. In this memo, we discuss the syndrome, its symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.

What is Respiratory Depression?

Respiratory depression or hypoventilation is a condition in which the lungs do not exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide well. In this case, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the blood increases.

Under normal breathing conditions, the blood receives enough oxygen from the lungs and excretes carbon dioxide. But when you have respiratory depression, your body can not completely remove the carbon dioxide in your body; As a result, blood oxygen levels decrease and carbon dioxide increases. This condition is accompanied by various symptoms such as shortness of breath.

What are the symptoms of respiratory depression?

The symptoms of this problem vary depending on the severity of the infection. At first these symptoms are mild. The most important mild symptoms are:

  • Lethargy and fatigue;
  • Sleep pollution during the day;
  • Shallow and slow breathing;
  • Depression;
  • Shortness of breath.

If these symptoms are not taken seriously, the severity of the complication will increase and more severe symptoms will appear; like the:

  • Confused;
  • Situation of ignorance (lack of awareness of time, place and people);
  • Visual impairment and headache;
  • Difficult breathing even at rest;
  • Bruising of the lips and fingers and toes;
  • Increased drowsiness and fatigue during the day;
  • Difficulty staying awake and sleeping long at night;
  • Convulsions;
  • Long pause between each breath (apnea);
  • Nausea;
  • Abnormal breathing sound;
  • Decreased level of awareness and cognition.

Causes of Respiratory Depression

There are different reasons for getting this disease. Certain diseases and complications can lead to respiratory problems and as a result of hypovontilization, which we introduce in this section:

1. Neuromuscular disorders

People with neuromuscular dysfunction may experience complications such as rapid or shallow breathing because their lungs are weak or muscular. Respiratory problems of this group show themselves especially during sleep and during deep sleep.

2. Chest abnormalities

Chest abnormalities such as kyphoscoliosis and fibrothorax can adversely affect normal breathing and make it difficult. In these abnormalities, the chest does not have a normal shape, so there is not enough space for the lungs to contract and expand.

3. Obesity

Excessive obesity in some people can lead to respiratory depression, which is called obesity respiratory depression syndrome. Accumulation of fat around the abdomen, neck and chest makes it difficult to breathe and causes carbon dioxide to accumulate in the blood.

4. Brain Injuries

Some brain damage can lead to respiratory problems. Failure of part of the brain cells impairs the brain’s ability to control breathing.

5. Apnea or sleep apnea

People with obstructive sleep apnea experience difficulty stopping breathing during sleep because their airway is blocked. People with central apnea, although their airways remain open, the breathing process stops due to a chest abnormality or dry lungs.

Our brain has more control over breathing during the day, so the first signs of respiratory depression during sleep, especially the deep sleep phase, are more pronounced. This reduces the quality of sleep, leading to secondary problems during the day.

6. Chronic lung diseases

Most chronic lung diseases can cause respiratory depression.

7. Neurological diseases

Respiratory depression is one of the complications of some neurological diseases such as nerve trauma, brain injuries, abnormal growth of body tissues and cerebrovascular injuries. Respiratory problems caused by these cases are called central cavitation hypoventilation because it affects the neuro-respiratory system.

8. Increases the amount of ammonia in the body

Genetic problems along with some diseases such as liver cirrhosis lead to an increase in blood ammonia levels. This increased ammonia has a negative effect on the body’s respiratory system and causes respiratory depression.

9. Drug use and drugs

Excessive use of some medications has a negative effect on the functioning of the respiratory system and can increase the risk of developing respiratory depression. Respiratory depression is also a side effect of some medications.

These drugs, as well as some drugs, affect the nervous system and interfere with breathing. These drugs and substances include:

  • Tranquilizers;
  • drugs;
  • Opiates;
  • Alcohol;
  • Barbiturates;
  • Benzodiazepines.

Can Respiratory Depression Be Prevented?

Although it is not possible to prevent all the factors that affect this complication, but some reasons can be prevented. For example, monitoring the use of medication by children or those taking sedatives, abstaining from alcohol and drugs.

Diagnosis of respiratory depression

To diagnose this complication early, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. To diagnose this syndrome, your doctor will ask you questions about the medications you are taking after receiving a history. Then, to more accurately identify the causes of this complication, it will prepare tests for you as follows:

  • Chest imaging;
  • Lung function test;
  • Urine test to detect the presence of a substance in the blood that causes respiratory problems;
  • Alcohol and drug testing;
  • Blood gas testing (to determine the exact amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide);
  • Blood hemoglobin test (to determine if there are enough red blood cells in the blood);
  • Blood oxygen measurement with a pulse oxygen meter;
  • CT scans and X-rays to check for the possibility of a tumor or stroke;
  • Check sleep status to identify related problems;
  • Thyroid test (to identify possible thyroid problems that are one of the main causes of obesity and consequently respiratory problems);
  • Electrocardiography or ECG to identify possible heart problems;
  • Brain imaging or brain scan to identify possible brain problems such as stroke, brain tumor, epilepsy;
  • Test for ammonia in the blood.

Treatment of respiratory depression

Treatment for respiratory depression varies depending on the cause. However, all treatments focus on two things; One is to cure the root of the problem and the other is to improve breathing.

Common treatments for respiratory depression include:

  • Oxygen therapy, which involves receiving oxygen to increase its concentration in the blood;
  • Using a positive pressure device on the airways to hold them in place during sleep;
  • Chest abnormal surgery;
  • Weight loss with surgery and medication;
  • Inhalation drugs to open the airways and treat lung disease;
  • Use of a ventilator;
  • Treatment by injecting fluids or drinking them;
  • Stop taking medications that cause respiratory depression;
  • If excessive use of sedatives or narcotics leads to respiratory depression, appropriate medications should be used immediately to counteract the effects of these substances.

What is the difference between hypoventilation and hypoventilation?

In the end, it is good to notice the difference between the two. Hypoventilation is the same as respiratory depression, in which a person’s body is unable to properly absorb carbon dioxide. While hypoventilation occurs when a person breathes rapidly, it is so rapid that expiratory air is rapidly expelled from the body and blood carbon dioxide levels are reduced.

The point is that sometimes hard breathing and shortness of breath make a person think that he or she has hypoventilation, but in reality his shallow breathing leads to hypoventilation.

Final point

Severe symptoms can be prevented by diagnosing and treating respiratory depression. The treatment of respiratory depression is very important because neglecting it can cause serious problems for a person and even cause his death.

Do you also suffer from respiratory depression? Which of the following symptoms do you have? How to share your experiences about this disease with us and our dear users.

Warning! This article is for educational purposes only and you should consult your doctor or specialist to use it. more information






Respiratory depression; Symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment

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