Symptoms of Respiratory Failure

Symptoms of respiratory failure depend on whether you have inadequate oxygen or excessive carbon dioxide in your bloodstream. Many people in respiratory failure have both conditions.

If you are hypoxemic (have inadequate oxygen), your symptoms may include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Cyanosis (a bluish tinge to the skin, especially around the mouth, eyes and nails)
  • Fast heart rate
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Severe headache
  • Pulmonary hypertension

If you are hypercapnic (have excess carbon dioxide), your symptoms may include:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Flushed skin
  • Muscle twitches
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Lethargy and drowsiness

Severe symptoms can include:

  • Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
  • Seizure
  • Fainting
  • Panic attack