Most people have heard of hyperventilation or breathing too quickly and shallowly. Hypoventilation, which is less well known, is the exact opposite -- a condition that leads people to breathe less than they should; it can be a cause, an indicator, or the result of another medical problem. Many different actions, conditions, and medications can cause hypoventilation, with treatment generally dependent on the cause.
It is also known as respiratory depression. It happens when the body does not receive the amount of ventilation necessary to carry out the essential oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange -- in other words, a person breathes too slowly and, therefore, ineffectively. The result is high levels of carbon dioxide in the body that can lead to severe medical emergencies.
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