Causes of Respiratory Alkalosis
Respiratory alkalosis is a condition where pH values increase in the blood because of a decrease in carbon dioxide. The condition is caused by hyperventilation, a physiological response that increases oxygen intake to abnormal levels. Respiratory alkalosis can be chronic or acute. Chronic conditions are normally asymptomatic, but acute hyperventilation leads to dizziness and light-headedness. Hyperventilation causes can be from trauma or an underlying condition such as the body’s attempt to compensate for acidosis.
Although carbonate ions play a role in respiratory alkalosis, the main reason for the condition stems from increased respiratory activity. Hyperventilation is the body’s response to low pH levels (acidosis), which can be from fever or low oxygen levels. As the body’s oxygen levels in the blood lower, the blood’s pH decreases. Physiological responses from the body induce hyperventilation, but the reverse conditions of acidosis can occur if increased breathing continues.
Carbonate ions circulate in the blood as a buffer for hydrogen ions. When acute or chronic kidney failure occurs, electrolytes and hydrogen ions aren’t filtered out of the body. The increase in hydrogen ions leads to acidosis, which in turn increases respiratory rate. When kidney function is returned to normal, they filter the ions out of the blood and breathing rate returns to normal.
Embolisms occur when blood clots travel from other parts of the body to places like the heart, brain, or the lungs. Pulmonary embolisms are blood clots that travel from veins such as the legs, through the heart, and up into the respiratory vessels. The blockage of blood to the lungs causes patients to hyperventilate and increases heart rate, and eventually leads to pulmonary alkalosis.
Ventilation machines are another cause of pulmonary alkalosis. When machines are not configured properly, they deplete carbon dioxide from arterial blood leading to a high pH. The opposite effect occurs in cells. As carbon dioxide is exhaled, cellular acidosis occurs creating acidic conditions in venous blood.
Treatments implemented on patients with respiratory alkalosis are focused on symptoms. Since respiratory alkalosis is not life-threatening, symptoms are treated rather than implementing medication that directly affects blood pH. For instance, breathing through a paper bag is an old favorite for lowering hyperventilation. The bag increases carbon dioxide levels returning the blood’s pH levels back to neutral.