What Do Low CO2 Levels In Blood Indicate

Blood functions significantly to perform all the metabolic processes very well. And all this happens only when the pH of blood is in the range of 7.35-7.45. Any kind of raise and fall in this range of pH results in acidosis and alkalosis1, which also causes high and low CO2 levels in blood. And ultimately, other systems of the body stop working properly.

Hence, it is important to maintain blood pH levels to maintain acid-base balance in the body. The kidney and lungs control the acid-base balance. So, any imbalance in acids and base means kidney and lung function is get affected.

These are directly associated with the carbon dioxide levels in the blood. High and low CO2 levels in blood are responsible for various diseases, including lung and kidney disease.

It will be essential to know about low CO2 levels in the blood as it is associated with life-threatening health conditions.

carbon dioxide
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Here, everything about the low CO2 levels in the blood will be covered, including the signs and causes of low carbon dioxide and the ways to raise the CO2 level in the blood.

So scroll down to the end and grab this information.

Carbon Dioxide in Blood

Carbon dioxide is a waste product formed by tissues or cells during cellular respiration2. But it is not found in CO2 form in the blood. It is present in form of bicarbonate (HCO3) molecues. Bicarbonate ions do the balance of acid-base.

The number of bicarbonates indicates the level of carbon dioxide in the blood. The combination of CO2 and water molecules forms them. Carbon dioxide plays a significant role in performing metabolic processes.

Physiological Importance of CO2 in the Blood

• The most important role of carbon dioxide in the blood is to maintain the pH of the blood.

• It completes the process of cellular respiration for the generating of energy.

• Increases the affinity of oxygen to bind with hemoglobin.

• Blood carries carbon dioxide to the lungs and eliminates this waste product. In this way, blood brings oxygen to the cells.

Carbon Dioxide Blood Tests

A carbon dioxide (CO2) blood test measures the level of CO2 in a blood sample. Through the CO2 blood test, your healthcare provider will determine not only your carbon dioxide levels but also your electrolytes.

Generally, this test measures the number of bicarbonates; hence, it is also called a bicarbonate blood test3.

A healthcare professional conducts a carbon dioxide blood test when the person shows the following symptoms.

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Nausea or Vomiting

The blood sample is taken from both veins and arteries to conduct the blood test. Arterial blood is used for the blood gases analysis, while a venous blood sample is used for the actual carbon dioxide test4.

For the determination of bicarbonate levels, the bicarbonate test is good.

Low CO2 Levels in Blood or Hyperventilation

Low carbon dioxide levels in the blood mean your body removes CO2 in excess that its deficiency occurs inside the body. Sometimes this kind of condition happens for a short period, but if it remains so long, then it is not good. It might signify any health problem, including lung diseases and breathing disorders.

Signs of Low CO2 Levels in Blood

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Slight pain
  • Anxiety
  • Rapid breathing
  • Low breathing rate
  • Sweating
  • Twitching

Causes of Low CO2 Levels in Blood

Here are the major causes of the fall in the level of carbon dioxide.

1. Metabolic Acidosis

This condition arises when too much acid is found in the blood. The high amount of acids in the body causes a fall in the pH of the blood.

This happens in two cases:

  • When the kidney is not eliminating acidic waste properly
  • excessive bicarbonate loss

When the body produces a high level of acids which in turn reduces the carbon dioxide levels in the blood, this, in turn, develops health issues, including ketones buildup.

2. Loss of Bicarbonates

As it is already clear that the bicarbonate levels determine the level of carbon dioxide in the blood. Bicarbonates act as a strong buffer in the blood to maintain the blood pH level. The normal range of bicarbonates keeps the pH level stable.

But the loss of bicarbonates imbalances the pH value and causes low CO2 levels in the blood. The excessive loss of carbonic acid or bicarbonates occurs in conditions such as diarrhea or kidney disease.

3. Respiratory Alkalosis

Respiratory alkalosis or hyperventilation is a state of rapid breathing. In which you exhale soo quickly that more carbon dioxide (CO2) gets released in comparison to the amount of oxygen inhaled.

Hyperventilation results in the development of lung disorders, irregular heart rhythm, stress, and anxiety. And most importantly, it causes low CO2 levels in the blood.

Hyperventilation or over-breathing also occurs in the following medical conditions

4. Certain Medications

In some people, the condition of low CO2 levels in blood is observed due to the intake of certain medicines. These medicines can potentially reduce the level of carbon dioxide in the blood. Either by raising acid concentration or by removing bicarbonates.

The blood with a low bicarbonate number depicts a low level of carbon dioxide. Hence, it is important to avoid these medicines. These are such as acetazolamide5, metformin, excess aspirin, and cholestyramine6.

Consequences of Low CO2 Levels in Blood

Now, you know the causes of low CO2 levels in blood. But do you know what health risk occurs due to this condition?

Here are the most common consequences arising from the blood’s low carbon dioxide content.

1. Poor Lung Function

The function of the lungs gets affected in case of low CO2. The blood’s normal range of oxygen and carbon dioxide is maintained throughout the breathing process. When an abnormality happens in the breathing process, it directly affects the respiratory system or lungs.

As a result, the lungs will show poor functioning.

2. Kidney Disorders

The low CO2 levels in blood increase the risk of kidney diseases. A kidney is a vital organ that removes waste products from the body. It also removes acid, which the body makes through metabolic activities.

If you have healthy kidneys, it functions properly to balance electrolytes and bicarbonates in the body. When the electrolyte imbalances in the body, it is a sign of kidney-related disorders. Low bicarbonate levels also result in the development of chronic kidney diseases.

3. Addison’s Disease

It is quite an uncommon disease that occurs in the adrenal gland region. This gland is present on the top of each kidney. This disease occurs when the adrenal gland is not producing enough hormones- cortisol and aldosterone.

The aldosterone hormone helps regulate the number of salts and electrolytes in the body. It also helps the kidney in removing wastes. But due to the lack of this hormone, all these functions get restricted.

4. Diabetic Ketoacidosis

It occurs mostly in type 1 diabetic people. It is a life-threatening disease that occurs due to low carbon dioxide levels. This happens when the body does not produce enough insulin. The deficiency of insulin ceases the breakdown of blood sugar for energy.

As a result, energy production takes place in the liver through the breakdown of fat. In this process, acids are formed as a by-product, which gets accumulated in the body and causes other complications.

5. Anxiety and Panic Disorders

Panic disorder and anxiety show close relation with low CO2 levels in blood. Deep breathing or rapid breathing causes low carbon dioxide content in the blood but also causes stress and anxiety.

Even studies have also proven that persons suffering from anxiety report low levels of CO2 in their blood tests.

Ways to Increase Low CO2 Levels in Blood

Without the information on the treatments to raise the level of CO2 in the blood, this article will be incomplete.

So, here are some ways through which you can raise the carbon dioxide level in the body.

breathing exercise
Image by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels

Through these ways, you can control the symptoms and consequences of low CO2 levels in blood. But always remember to take the help of a healthcare provider when you find the above-mentioned health conditions.

1. Acupuncture

This is an ancient method used in Chinese medicine for the healing process. Through this technique, you will feel calm and relaxed. This will help you in correcting your over-breathing process.

2. Drink Lots of Water

Dehydration is also responsible for the fall in CO2 levels in the blood. It also increases the risk of metabolic acidosis. So, always keep yourself hydrated.

3. Breathing Exercises

Hyperventilation is treated by breathing exercises very effectively. Various kinds of breathing techniques are used to raise the CO2 level. Some of them are alternate nostril breathing and Buteyko breathing.

Final Note

Hope this information regarding low carbon dioxide levels in the blood will be helpful for you.

Read more from us here.

Understand The Consequences of High CO2 Levels In The Blood
Icy Health
  1. Harper, A. Murray, and Ruth A. Bell. “The effect of metabolic acidosis and alkalosis on the blood flow through the cerebral cortex.” Journal of neurology, neurosurgery, and psychiatry 26.4 (1963): 341. ↩︎
  2. Ishikawa, T., B. L. Zhu, and H. Maeda. “Effects of therapeutic agents on cellular respiration as an indication of metabolic activity.” Human & experimental toxicology 25.3 (2006): 135-140. ↩︎
  3. Kumar, Vivek, and Brad S. Karon. “Comparison of measured and calculated bicarbonate values.” Clinical chemistry 54.9 (2008): 1586-1587. ↩︎
  4. Holm, L. W., and L. J. O’Brien. “Carbon dioxide test at the Mead-Strawn field.” Journal of Petroleum technology 23.04 (1971): 431-442. ↩︎
  5. Reiss, William G., and Karen S. Oles. “Acetazolamide in the treatment of seizures.” Annals of Pharmacotherapy 30.5 (1996): 514-519. ↩︎
  6. Thompson, W. G. “Cholestyramine.” Canadian Medical Association Journal 104.4 (1971): 305. ↩︎

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