What is the progression of hypoventilation syndrome?

Updated: Jul 22, 2021
  • Author: Jazeela Fayyaz, DO; Chief Editor: Guy W Soo Hoo, MD, MPH  more...
  • Print

During the early stages of hypoventilation with mild to moderate hypercapnia, patients usually are asymptomatic or have only minimal symptoms.

Patients may be anxious and complain of dyspnea with exertion. As the degree of hypoventilation progresses, patients develop dyspnea at rest. Some patients may have disturbed sleep and daytime hypersomnolence.

As the hypoventilation continues to progress, more patients develop increased hypercapnia and hypoxemia. Therefore, they may have clinical manifestations of hypoxemia, such as cyanosis, and they also may have signs related to their hypercapnia.

Other symptoms of worsening hypoventilation can include the progression of anxiety to delirium. In addition, patients can become increasingly confused, somnolent, and obtunded. This condition occasionally is referred to as carbon dioxide narcosis.

Patients may develop asterixis, myoclonus, and seizures in severe hypercapnia. Papilledema may be seen in some individuals secondary to increased intracranial pressure related to cerebral vasodilation. Conjunctival and superficial facial blood vessel dilation also may be noted.

Patients with respiratory muscle weakness usually display generalized weakness secondary to their underlying neuromuscular disorder. Respiratory muscle weakness also may lead to impaired cough and recurrent lower respiratory tract infections.

With advanced disease, patients may develop respiratory failure and require ventilatory support.

Did this answer your question?
Additional feedback? (Optional)
Thank you for your feedback!