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Respiratory alkalosis

Definition

Respiratory alkalosis is a condition marked by low levels of carbon dioxide in the blood due to breathing excessively.

See also: Alkalosis

Alternative Names

Alkalosis - respiratory

Causes

Common causes include:

Any lung disease that leads to shortness of breath can also cause respiratory alkalosis (such as pulmonary embolism and asthma).

Symptoms

The symptoms may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Light-headedness
  • Numbness of the hands and feet

Exams and Tests

Your doctor or nurse will perform a physical exam. Tests that may be done include:

Treatment

Treatment is aimed at the condition that causes respiratory alkalosis. Breathing into a paper bag -- or using a mask that causes you to re-breathe carbon dioxide -- sometimes helps reduce symptoms.

Outlook (Prognosis)

What will happen depends on the condition that is causing the respiratory alkalosis.

Possible Complications

Seizures may occur if the alkalosis is extremely severe. This is very rare.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have any symptoms of lung disease, such as chronic cough or shortness of breath.

References

Effros RM, Swenson ER. Acid-base balance. In: Mason RJ, Broaddus CV, Martin TR, et al. Murray & Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2010:chap 7.

Seifter JL. Acid-base disorders. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 120.


Review Date: 8/25/2014
Reviewed By: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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