Q: I have been told that I am a CO2 retainer. What does this mean?
A: When the small bronchial tubes become floppy, inflamed, or constricted, stale air becomes trapped in the alveoli. This air contains carbon dioxide that would normally be exhaled and eliminated. Over time, the carbon dioxide levels in your blood also become elevated, causing changes in the acid/base balance of your body.
These changes may also affect how your brain senses when to direct breathing. Those with CO2 retention may actually stop breathing when oxygen saturation levels become higher than 94 percent. Although this scenario is rare, it highlights the important of using home oxygen exactly as your health-care provider has prescribed.
Q: What causes shortness of breath? Does shortness of breath mean i need extra oxygen?
A: Most people think that low oxygen levels cause shortness of breath, but studies have shown that many people with hypoxia do not experience any shortness of breath at all until it becomes severe. Several factors can contribute to the feeling of shortness of breath.
- Increased work of breathing either due to weakened respiratory muscles or loss of elasticity in the lungs, which causes resistance.
- Chemical receptors in the brain that sense increased carbon dioxide levels
- Increased cardiac workload due to a weakened, damaged, or enlarged heart muscle.