Some symptoms of carbon dioxide retention are fainting, skin that appears bluish, shortness of breath, confusion and an elevated heart rate. The medical term for an elevated level of carbon dioxide in the blood is hypercapnia, reports Congenital Muscular Dystrophy. There can be many causes associated with hypercapnia, including Cushing's disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), anorexia, vomiting, pulmonary edema and dehydration, notes WebMD.
The normal levels for carbon dioxide in the blood ranges from 23 to 30 millimoles per liter. Although a high level of CO2 in blood is related to the different conditions mentioned, it can also be due to taking medications that contain bicarbonate, states WebMD. Patients with high levels of carbon dioxide can have low blood levels of oxygen.
The symptoms of hypercapnia can be present in patients with acute respiratory failure. Respiratory failure occurs when there is a problem with the proper exchange of the gases oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs, which leads to low lung function. Hypercapnic respiratory failure can lead to complications, according to Healthline.
Treatment for acute respiratory failure linked to hypercapnia can include addressing a symptom like shortness of breath due to low lung function. Patients with low lung function may require supplemental oxygen therapy to facilitate breathing. Treatment can also entail treating underlying conditions, such as COPD. Pain medication may also be necessary. When breathing is severely compromised, a tracheostomy may be necessary.