Find Out The Facts Regarding Respiratory Depression And How To Manage It

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Do you monitor your rate of breathing? Some people experience a low breathing rate which is not normal. This condition is known as respiratory depression. It prevents sufficient supply of oxygen in the body and increases the level of carbon dioxide.


The brain is responsible for controlling respiration in the body. Factors that interfere with the central nervous system lead to respiratory depression. It is a condition that can cause coma or even death if it is not diagnosed or treated early enough. Here are some details regarding this condition including causes, symptoms and treatment methods.


How does respiratory depression occur?

 The normal cycle of breathing involves inhaling oxygen into the lungs. The blood transports this oxygen to your body parts and delivers it to tissues. The blood also takes carbon dioxide and releases it out of the body through exhaling.


Respiratory depression occurs when the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide does not take place properly within the lungs. It leads to shallow and slow breathing in patients. Some call it central hypoventilation. With this condition, you may miss breathing up to 12 times every minute. In severe cases, the body may accumulate acids that cause respiratory acidosis.


Respiratory depression has causes ranging from health complications to certain medications. People who take excess opioids are at high risk of getting the disease. A stroke can also affect the lower stem of the brain affecting respiration.


An overdose of substances such as ethanol and sedatives are also possible causes. Sleep problems such as apnea affect your breathing system at night. It collapses the air passage as you sleep making it hard to breathe. People who suffer from conditions such as cirrhosis and liver failure are also prone to getting respiratory depression. Some lung diseases such as OCPD also block the airways and interfere with the normal breathing.


Neuromuscular diseases also weaken body muscles which are responsible for regulating breathing. Deformities in the chest wall make breathing difficult. Excessive weight can also cause breathing challenges since the body has to work twice as hard to receive enough oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide.

How can you know your breathing rate is abnormal?

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Respiratory depression can come with mild symptoms at first then severe ones if not treated. Some of the early signs include disorientation, lethargy, confusion, nausea, dizziness, and minimal chest movements when breathing. You may also feel fatigue and get sleepy during the day.


The progression of this condition with the high levels of carbon dioxide in the body can make you start vomiting and getting a constant headache. The blood pressure can either rise or drop. Tremors and reduced pupils are also symptoms of the disease.


You may also start breathing fast as your body tries to blow out the extra carbon dioxide in the body. The severe symptoms of this condition include a cardiac arrest, respiratory arrest, brain damage or death. Visit the doctor immediately after you notice some mild signs to get help early enough.


Managing respiratory depression


Getting treatment


In treating this condition, you should undergo some tests such as screens to confirm the toxins in the body and check levels of substances such as ammonia. You can also undergo a gas test that enables doctors to calculate how much oxygen and carbon dioxide is in your blood. Brains scans can also check for any tumors or a stroke.


A chest x-ray can be done to confirm abnormalities in the chest area. A hemoglobin test can help the doctor establish the number of red blood cells in the body. You need enough cells to transport oxygen to the different parts. You can also go through a sleep study to diagnose disorders such as sleep apnea.


After identifying the cause, you can start treatment. There are different medications and therapies used to treat respiratory depression.  For instance, oxygen therapy can be used to increase the levels of this gas in the body. Fluid therapy is also an alternative that is given either orally or intravenously.


Doctors can also put you under an airway pressure machine or CPAP to help balance the level of gases in your blood. These machines also keep the airway open during sleeping to cure sleep apnea. You can also undergo surgery in the case of a deformity in the chest. For people suffering from lung diseases, inhaled medications can keep the airways open to making breathing easy.


Avoid misuse of drugs

An overdose from drugs can cause respiratory arrest. You can prevent yourself from respiration depression and severe complications by not misusing drugs. Even if they are legal, all drugs come with dosage levels for a reason.


Do not take opiate or sedatives without prescriptions. If you have been doing this, opiate detox alongside medicines that curb the effects of this substance are effective in reducing the symptoms of respiratory depression.  Drugs such as naloxone can be used in reversing respiratory depression caused by the use of opioids.


Avoid taking alcohol in large quantities since it can also affect your breathing rate. It decreases your level of breathing and may lead to complications such as seizures, low blood sugar, and aspiration pneumonia.  Take the necessary precautions if you have to use narcotic medicines.


Lose weight

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Exercises can help you get rid of excess weight to prevent the blocking of airways. Combine light exercises such as walking and swimming with strength training to burn excess calories from the body. Ensure that you also maintain a balanced diet as you eliminate unhealthy meals to control your weight and burn fat fast. You should also reduce high-stress levels since they can affect your eating and sleeping habits. Control stress through meditation and exercises.


Final thoughts

Respiratory depression is a condition that you can prevent by watching your intake of substances and controlling your weight. The average breathing rate in humans is 12 times every minute. Watch of for any changes in this rate and seek treatment as soon as you discover abnormalities. Remember to use medications properly and avoid using harmful drugs.