Chronic Respiratory Distress



What is chronic respiratory distress?

Respiratory distress can happen when your respiratory system is unable to remove carbon dioxide from the blood, causing it to build up in the body. The condition can also develop when your respiratory system can’t take in enough oxygen, leading to dangerously low levels of oxygen in the blood.

Respiratory system is a collection of organs responsible for taking in oxygen and getting rid of carbon dioxide. When you inhale, you breathe in oxygen-rich air. The oxygen moves through your bloodstream and into the organs and tissues of your body. This oxygen is vital for maintaining essential body functions.

When you exhale, you release carbon dioxide from your body. Carbon dioxide is a waste product that’s produced when the cells in your body break down sugar from the foods you eat. It’s essential for carbon dioxide to be removed from your blood, as high levels of this gas can cause organ damage.

Respiratory distress may be acute or chronic. Acute respiratory distress occurs suddenly and is typically treated as a medical emergency. Chronic respiratory distress gradually develops over time and requires long-term treatment.

How common is chronic respiratory distress?

This condition can occur at any age, but it is considered as more popular in men.

However, it can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of chronic respiratory distress?

Signs and symptoms of chronic respiratory distress may not be remarkable at first. They frequently occur slowly over an extended period of time. When symptoms do present, they may include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, especially when active
  • Coughing up mucous
  • Wheezing
  • Bluish tint to the skin, lips, or fingernails
  • Rapid breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion

Chronic respiratory distress is a serious illness that gets worse over time. As the condition increases in severity, people may develop an abnormal heart rhythm or slip into a coma.

When should I see my doctor?

Early diagnosis and treatment can stop this condition from worsening and prevent another medical emergency, so talk to your doctor as soon as possible to prevent this serious condition.

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes chronic respiratory distress?

Certain lung diseases can cause chronic respiratory distress. Conditions that influence the muscles, bones, or tissues that support breathing can also cause chronic respiratory distress.

Chronic respiratory distress usually happens when the tubes that carry air to your lungs become narrow and damaged. This limits air movement through the body, which means that less oxygen gets in and less carbon dioxide gets out.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for chronic respiratory distress?

You may have higher risks for this condition if you are experiencing these following conditions:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Pneumonia
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Stroke
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Injury to the chest
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Smoking

Diagnosis & Treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is chronic respiratory distress diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you may experience this condition, a physical examination will be performed and some tests will be also recommended by your doctor. Some common tests may be ordered include:

  • Pulse oximetry test: A pulse oximetry test is a simple and painless test that enables evaluate how well oxygen is being sent to various parts of the body.
  • Arterial blood gas test: An arterial blood gas test is a safe, easy procedure that measures the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood.
  • Imaging tests: Your doctor can use a chest X-ray or CT scan to obtain a better view of your lungs. These tests may reveal possible causes of chronic respiratory distress.

How is chronic respiratory distress treated? 

Depending on the severity of the condition, some treatment options will be recommended by your doctor:

Options may include:

  • Oxygen therapy: Oxygen therapy raises oxygen levels by increasing the amount of oxygen you inhale. Oxygen is distributed from a tank through a tube. The gas enters the lungs through a facemask, nasal tubes, or one larger tube directly inserted into the windpipe.
  • Tracheotomy: During this procedure, your doctor places a tube in your windpipe so that you can breathe more easily. The tube is inserted through a cut in the front of your neck where your windpipe is located. This tube may be temporary or permanent.
  • Mechanical ventilation: If chronic respiratory distress doesn’t improve with other treatments, your doctor may put you on a ventilator, or breathing machine. This machine pumps oxygen through a tube that is placed into your mouth or nose and down into your windpipe.

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage chronic respiratory distress?

You can reduce your risk if you:

  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid secondhand smoke
  • Eat a proper diet full of fruits and vegetables
  • Exercise most days of the week

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Review Date: February 19, 2017 | Last Modified: March 8, 2017

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