Hypercapnia develops when the body retains higher than normal levels of carbon dioxide or CO2 in the arterial blood. The condition may be chronic or acute and usually requires medical attention and treatment. Left untreated, it can lead to respiratory acidosis, respiratory failure, and even death. Hypercapnia is especially prevalent in individuals with obstructive airway diseases and certain muscular and neurological disorders. Trauma to the respiratory, cardiovascular, or nervous systems can also lead to precede the condition.


1. Carbon Dioxide's Role in the Body

Carbon dioxide is a gas naturally produced in the body as a byproduct of cellular respiration. CO2 plays a variety of important roles in the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, including stimulating respiratory function and reinforcing the bond between hemoglobin and oxygen. As a bicarbonate, CO2 balances pH levels in the blood. Oxygen enters the body on inhalation, and carbon dioxide is expelled on exhalation. If something disrupts this exchange and the body fails to expel excess carbon dioxide, hypercapnia may occur.

respiratory inhalation exhalation GM Stock Films / Getty Images

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