What Does Hypoventilation Mean?
Hypoventilation occurs when the body's lungs cannot absorb enough oxygen and carbon dioxide then builds up in the blood stream. Hypoventilation is caused when the amount of air entering, or processed by, the pulmonary alveoli in the lungs is reduced. The condition is usually diagnosed by measuring the patient's arterial blood gases (ABG) to detect high levels of carbon dioxide. Sleep studies may also be used to assess the condition.
Symptoms of hypoventilation include cyanosis (bluing of the skin) and a general decrease in respiratory function. Individuals suffering from hypoventilation may also experience fatigue, dyspnea (labored breathing), hypoxia (low blood oxygen) , stomach aches, heart problems, and headaches.
Because individuals with sleep apnea may not automatically breath and correct any imbalance of blood gases, hypoventilation is particularly dangerous for sufferers of sleep apnea. The condition may become life-threatening if steps are not taken to ensure that appropriate oxygen levels are maintained.