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Respiratory failure is a condition in which the lungs, respiratory muscles and/or thorax become impaired to the exchange that there is a drop in oxygen levels in the blood. There may or may not be an increase in the level of carbon dioxide in the blood.
Respiratory failure can occur due to any disease which can impair breathing. Lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia, pulmonary edema, acute respiratory distress syndrome etc. can put patients at high risk of respiratory failure. It can also occur due to multiple organ failure.
The symptoms of respiratory failure include shortness of breath, bluish color of skins, lips and fingernails and loss of consciousness.
Respiratory failure is a life threatening condition and requires immediate medical intervention. This involves putting the patient of oxygen treatment and ventilator support, intravenous fluid, CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) and medications.
The ultimate treatment objective of treating respiratory failure should however be to cure the underlying disease causing respiratory failure.