An excess of carbon dioxide causes the blood to become too acidic, a condition known as respiratory acidosis, according to MedlinePlus. Typical symptoms include confusion, fatigue, sleepiness, lethargy and shortness of breath.
Normally, the kidneys and lungs function to maintain the acid-base balance in the blood, referred to as pH, explains Healthline. Acidosis occurs when there is too much acid in the blood. When respiratory acidosis happens slowly, the kidneys usually can adapt and maintain proper blood pH. However, if the condition happens suddenly, the kidneys are unable to correct the problem. This leads to acute respiratory acidosis, a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention to prevent organ failure, respiratory failure and shock.
Treatment for respiratory acidosis depends on what is causing the condition, reports MedlinePlus. Doctors sometimes give bronchodilators to open the airways and administer oxygen if the person's blood-oxygen level is low. In some cases, patients may require positive-pressure ventilation or mechanical ventilation with a breathing machine.
Respiratory acidosis often occurs as a result of a chronic condition, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, explains MedlinePlus. Skeletal conditions that restrict chest movement, such as scoliosis, and neuromuscular diseases that interfere with the ability to breathe cause acidosis as well. Narcotics or other sedatives that suppress breathing may also cause respiratory acidosis, especially in combination with alcohol.