Some symptoms of high levels of carbon dioxide in the blood are drowsiness, inability to concentrate and headache, according to About.com. In more severe cases of high carbon dioxide, also known as hypercapnia, symptoms include flushed skin, dizziness, muscle twitches, increased blood pressure and rapid breathing. These symptoms are a sign of respiratory failure and require immediate medical attention.
Several medical disorders can cause hypercapnia including chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, drug overdose, obstructive sleep apnea, asthma and seizures, explains About.com. In COPD, the alveoli are destroyed, which means there is less surface area in the lungs for oxygen to be inhaled and carbon dioxide to be exhaled and removed from blood.
Doctors treat high carbon dioxide levels by identifying the underlying cause and determining the severity of the illness. In severe cases, treatment can involve mechanical ventilation, intubation and noninvasive positive pressure ventilation, according to PrimeHealthChannel.
Untreated hypercapnia can result in serious complications, such as cardiac arrhythmia, pulmonary edema, and respiratory acidosis, reports PrimeHealthChannel. Cardiac arrhythmias are irregular heartbeats due to abnormal contractions of the heart. Pulmonary edema occurs when there is an accumulation of fluid in the interstitial spaces of the lungs, which makes breathing very difficult. Respiratory acidosis is a reduction in the pH of the blood.