COPD & Emphysema Support Group

COPD is a progressive disease characterized by airflow obstruction or limitation. Emphysema is characterized by loss of elasticity of the lung tissue, destruction of structures supporting the alveoli and of capillaries feeding the alveoli. Both have symptoms that include shortness of breath, among other respiratory troubles. If you are a COPD or Emphysema sufferer, join the group and find support.

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CO2 retention???

I was diagnosed with bronchitis on Monday and have been on a prednisone spurt and taper since then, as well as antibiotics. I am feeling somewhat better--but my shortness of breath has significantly increased.

Since I was feeling that I wasn't getting enough oxygen, I turned my machine up to 3 (normally have it at 2).either Monday or Tuesday and it has been on that level 24/7 since then.

I've heard people mention co2 retention on the board here from time to time--and it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps this is why my breathing keeps getting worse, although I feel the bronchitis is pretty much cleared up.

I've now turned my machine back down to '2' and since I'm just planning on laying around and reading most of the day I've decided to only use my o2 when I'm actually up and about. I'm also doing pursed lip breathing as often as I think of it. And, although its only been a couple of hours I think
my breathing is better. At any rate I just walked around for a few minutes, having forgotten to put my o2 back on and did not experience that extreme sob I've felt recently--so much sob that I've frequently lost control of my bladder and have had some 'floods'. (By the way, my GP has never actually told me to use my o2 24/7--but I've just felt safer doing so.)

My questions to those of you who have experience or knowledge of this retention business:

1) does this sound like co2 retention?

2) is drastically reducing my oxygen intake a safe and appropriate thing to do?

3) My GP doesn't seem to know very much about copd--but he has recently told me that he doesn't hear much of anything when he listens to my lungs--so why does he keep diagnosing me with bronchitis?

4) A trip to the ER would be horribly expensive for me since I don't have insurance (yet) but if people 'in the know' think I should go, I probably will.

(One of these days I'm going to try to learn to write SHORT posts!)

Thanks for any help or comments! vicki





I think you should check with your doc, if you are allergic to any of the drugs you are taking they can cause the symptoms you described - check the information leaflet that comes with the med.

Speaking with your doc could save you a trip to ER.

Of course not taking your 02 as prescribed will also lead to shortness of breath and could be dangerous. IMO not appropriate.

Wikipedia has a page on co2 retention.

Yep loss of bladder control can also be because you have desaturated another danger of this is organ failure.

Please take your 02 as prescribed and if your breathing still does not improve check with your doc about the worsening of your symptoms.

After about 6yrs they finally did a blood gas at my request and said I am a retainer and not to ever go above 3l and I have also felt a worsening with my 02 on 3 so I always turn it back to 2 I only use 3 when I need extra for only a few minutes and then back down. Peta is right about the organ damage but we have to know the difference it is a very thin line when u are a retainer like us.So check with ur Doc maybe he can check ur co2.

Hi Vicki,

It does sound like co2 retention. Only you know how you feel. If you weren't light headed or sob without the oxygen then your levels were probably ok. Walmart sells the pulse oximeters that go on your finger to check your oxygen and heart rate. They are a good investment for you and your peace of mind to know what your saturation is at. ABG or arerial blood gas test is what is done to check your co2. Blood is taken from an artery near your wrist (not a vein) and tested. A cpap or bipap machine (used for sleep apnea) is also used to help reduce the co2 levels if you are a retainer. My hubby is much healthier since he uses it. Easier on your heart and other organs too. Hubby's oxygen is usually at 3 except upon exertion. Keep in mind your blood can only hold so much gas, if it's full of co2 there is less room for oxygen. If your dr doesn't know much about copd you really need to see a pulmonologist to correctly diagnose and treat you. The right levels of oxygen and meds can make the world of difference.

I hope things go well for you. Hugs Sandy

I am a "retainer" and have to tell EMT's and other medical people---PLEASE DO NOT turn my oxygen up. My Pulmonary Doctor has told me not to turn it up-------as the carbon dioxide will build up in my bloodstream and possibly kill me. When I complain of SOB; everyone wants to increase my oxygen. With me, this is wrong. Pulmonary Doctor has told me to use oxygen 24/7; as needed----the only time I should be off of it is if I am just sitting and not exerting at all. When I lie down; I have to have oxygen; as two sleep studies documented oxygen de-saturation when lying flat or sleeping.
Vicki: You need to get clear instructions from your doctor about your oxygen use. Each of us is different. Best wishes.

Thank you all for your responses! I turned my oxygen back down--and have actually gone most of the day without using it at all (as I've just been laying around reading and resting.) My breathing is SO much better! I understand (now) that this could have nothing to do with co2 retention and that only blood tests would confirm or deny that I have this particular problem. Actually I think I've learned more from your responses to this post than at any other time.

Obviously I need to quit trying to be my own doctor--but since I truly don't think my GP has much info on COPD and I am so bull-headed sometimes, its really easy for me to fall into the trap of trying to make medical decisions for myself.

For the past few weeks I've been debating whether or not to take out health insurance as it will require me to relocate--but I have made a firm decision that I'm going to do this. I DO need a pulmonologist (sp?) to supervise my treatment I think my insurance (HMO) will take effect the first part of May. And I am sure that he will make wiser decisions for me than I have been doing for myself. lol

Again, thanks for all the help and information, vicki

You should not up your O2 settings. It will cause you to retain & if you check your sat levels with high CO2, it will skew the reading to look like you're getting enough O2. Try pursed lipped breathing. I exhale into a harmonica. Gives more resistance. Some people blow up balloons for the extra resistance. Also instead of just doubling the time you exhale to you inhale, my RT told me to keep blowing out til you really feel like you're going to keel. That's why on the PFT's they tell you to blow out as hard as you can for a couple seconds (that measures your FEV1) & then just slowly keep exhaling. You will continue to exhale 'air' well after you think it's stopped. That measures your FEV :>))

Again, my thanks for the responses! You guys are GREAT!!

Interestingly enough since turning my concentrater back down to '2' as its supposed to be, and only using it when I really feel its necessary,, my breathing is better right now than it has been in a long, long time. I have to watch my old 'alcoholic thinking' that if one pill (drink, whatever) is good, than 2 or 3 must be better! lol

My breathing is better than its been in a long time. Actually better than its been since shortly moving into my motel room last Fall. I guess this is about the time I started using my 02 almost continuously--as well as automatically reducing my exercise by living in such a small area!

I am feeling so optimistic! And Kaput, when the stores open later this morning I'm going to try to find a harmonica!

Thanks again! vicki
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