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The symptoms of respiratory failure depend on the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood and also the underlying cause of the condition. Generally, the symptoms of acute respiratory failure are more noticeable than those of chronic respiratory failure.

Symptoms caused by low oxygen levels in the blood include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • “Air hunger” – feeling that you cannot breathe in enough air
  • Blue color noticeable on the skin, lips, and fingernails

Symptoms caused by high levels of carbon dioxide in the blood include:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Confusion

Respiratory failure can cause the brain and heart to not get enough oxygen. Symptoms of this include: