What is it?

Acute respiratory failure occurs when the alveoli, that sacs usually filled with air, are filled with fluids. The alveoli are responsible for oxygen exchange, and when the capillaries surrounding them cannot exchange CO2 with O2, the body tissues do not get any oxygen, and cannot function. When this happens, symptoms start immediately. ARF may be caused due to obstruction of the airway, injury to the respiratory system, acute respiratory distress syndrome, drug and alcohol abuse, chemical inhalation, a stroke, and pneumonia.

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Signs & symptoms

Symptoms include rapid breathing, confusion, shortness of breath, discoloration of the skin, fingertips and nails, restlessness, anxiety, sleepiness, loss of consciousness, racing heart, irregular heart beats, and sweating.


Diagnosis is based upon findings from medical history and physical examination. Further evaluation may include pulse oximetry, and chest X-ray.


Treatment depends on the underlying cause and the severity of the condition and may include oxygen, breathing tube, or tracheostomy.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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