What is chronic respiratory failure?

Whether you’re an oxygen-deprived patient, a mildly asthmatic chap, or just someone who’s always been fascinated by the mechanics of breathing – this article is for you. We’ll be diving into the wonderful world of chronic respiratory failure (CRF) today, and we promise it won’t be as dry as hospital toast! So go ahead and take a deep breath (or 3), sit back, relax, and let’s get started!

What is CRF?

Chronic respiratory failure sounds like something that happens when your lungs fail chronologically. Like maybe after they’ve hit their expiration date or something… But nope.

CRF actually refers to a condition where your lungs are not able to maintain normal levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood over time (1).

Put simply: breathing ain’t working so well on its own anymore.

Typically characterized by low arterial oxygenation (hypoxemia) and/or high arterial carbon dioxide levels (hypercapnia), respiratory failure can develop suddenly (acute) or slowly over time ({chronic}).

When it develops slowly…you guessed it: chronic respiratory failure (2).

What Causes CRF?

Like most things related to health (and life?), there’s never one clear cause for any particular condition. However with respect to CRF, there exist some common risk factors:

  • Age
  • Smoking history
  • Prior lung disease such as COPD
  • Obesity
  • Opioid use

Of course theres also genetic pre-disposition which could make one prone but hey!, we cant change our entire DNA now can we?

Anyone have any good Plastic surgeons contacts anyway?

In some cases people may not even have known about their long standing lung issues until they notice shortness of breath walking up a flight of stairs or feeling like ‘light is just never quite making it to the end of their tunnel (3).’

Types of Chronic Respiratory Failure

It’s worth noting that respiratory failure can be classified into two main categories:

  • Type I: Characterized by low oxygen levels (hypoxemia) without high carbon dioxide concentrations
  • Type II: Marked by increased carbon dioxide levels (hypercapnia), as well as hypoxemia

This classification system helps your doctors know what type you have, in order to better identify its root cause and suggest a suitable course of treatment.

Is CRF as bad as it sounds?

Ok firstly lets clarify ‘what CRF actually entails’.
For one thing… Oxygen is important. It really freakin’ is!

Without sufficient levels pumping through our blood stream, normal cell function takes a serious hit – think cloudy-headedness, fatigue , chest pain …all sorts of un-fun stuff.

Then there’s hypercapnia (!?), characterised by an overwhelming sense dizziness (4) , confusion along with feeling extremely tired after even slight activity that most people take for granted such amd taking out the garbage etc…

However where theres coffee,there’s hope! And some viable treatments too!

How Can You Treat CRF?

There are various modalities available today to both manage respiratory disease symptoms and improve overall lung health.Most effective approach though will need strategies which involve regular health practitioner review,breathing tests,and application/adjustment medications specific toi individual needs amongst others.

Of particular importance include abandoning bad habits ;yes smoking does make this TRIPLE WORSE (5) . Overhauls your diet,introducing physical exercise,Ditching sedentary lifestyle patterns .

You might also want to look at selective oxygen supplementation —depending on severity—since research has shown O2 therapy titration has helped improve outcomes; all while avoiding complications such as over-oxygenation.

So embrace your inner yogi why dont you and practice that breathing everyday,since diaphragm work can do WONDERS for accompanying patients with CRF (6)

A Breath of Fresh Air

Chronic respiratory failure is a serious condition, but a diagnosis doesn’t mean the end of life! In fact, many people are able to manage their condition quite effectively, through careful treatment planning and adjustments.

As with most health challenges (and challenges in general), an attitude of positivity along with determination goes donkey years away!

Now that you have a little more understanding about what chronic respiratory means,you may just be better prepared to breath easier when caught out in those unexpected moments. Cough cough.

Keep calm…And breathe on.


  • 1) https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/184601
  • 2)https://www.healthline.com/health/respiratory-failure#types
  • 3) https://www.copdfoundation.org/What-is-COPD/Patient-Stories/COPD-in-the-Family.aspx
    -5)https/www.lung.org/copd/living-with-copd/managing-your-lung-condition/quitting-smoking.html .
    -6https: //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6207288/.

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