The Link Between COPD and Hypercapnia

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Generally speaking, when we breathe, we inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. These two respiratory gases are exchanged deep within the lungs in tiny, grape-like clusters, or air sacs, called alveoli. COPD is a condition that make people feel hard to breathe. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are two common examples of COPD. COPD is often caused by smoking or breathing in harmful air in polluted environments. Over time, COPD causes the alveoli (air sacs) in your lungs to lose their ability to stretch as they take in oxygen. COPD can also destroy the walls between these air sacs. When this happens, your lungs can’t take in oxygen effectively. COPD can also cause your trachea (windpipe) and the airways that lead to your alveoli, called bronchioles, to become inflamed. These parts may also produce a lot of extra mucus, making breathing even harder. The blockage and inflammation impede air flow in and out of the lungs. As a result, your body can’t get rid of CO2. This can cause CO2 to build up in your bloodstream. These result in a low amount of oxygen and a high level of carbon dioxide in the blood, this is called hypercapnia. Not everyone with COPD will get hypercapnia. But as COPD progresses, you’re more likely to have an imbalance of oxygen and CO2 in your body due to improper breathing.
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