Blog Kussmaul Respirations: Symptoms, Causes, And Treatments

Kussmaul Respirations: Symptoms, Causes, And Treatments

Are you looking for the answer to what Kussmaul breathing is? What are the symptoms and causes of this health condition? Here I will tell you everything about Kussmaul Respirations. Starting with how it is characterized to its signs, reason, and lastly, how it is treated.  

So let’s start with What Kussmaul Respiration is.


What Is Kussmaul Respirations?


Kussmaul Breathing is another name of Kussmaul Respirations. It is rapid, deep, and labored breathing. This abnormal respiratory can be the result of any certain medical condition such as diabetic ketoacidosis that is a serious complication of diabetes. 

Dr. Adolf Kussmaul was the person who first described this particular breathing pattern in the year 1874. So, this breathing potter had been named after his last name. 

When the body ingests or produces too much acid or the lungs and kidneys are failing, the acid level in the blood increases. When the blood becomes too acidic, the body takes action in order to restore the imbalance, and acidosis occurs. 

With the help of longer and deeper breaths, the lungs become able to expel acidic CO2 or carbon dioxide more than normal. This condition is named Kussmaul Respirations or Kussmaul Breathing. 

What Are The Symptoms Of Kussmaul Respirations?

Symptoms Of Kussmaul Respirations

Being a type of hyperventilation, some people address Kussmaul Respiration as panicked breathing, where a person appears to be gasping for breath. At the same time, there are many individuals who take the help of oxygen concentrators to overcome breathing issues.

This powerful and deep breathing is associated with Kussmaul Respirations most of the time causes exhalation and inhalation to become more loud and evident. Some also compared the sound with exaggerated sighing.  

Symptoms Of Acidosis

Before the labored and deep breathing, the person with metabolic acidosis typically has shallow and rapid breathing patterns. As the acidosis progresses and starts taking a severe gesture Kussmaul Respirations takes over. 

When all the signs of Kussmaul Respirations are obvious, in general, the symptoms that are related to metabolic acidosis are less evident. It also can cause coma, organ failure, and eventually death.

Here are some common symptoms of metabolic acidosis:

  • Feeling nauseous or sick.
  •  Headache.
  • Vomiting.
  • Mild confusion.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Excessive thirst.
  • Extreme drowsiness or exhaustion without logical cause, such as the amount of sleep or time of day. 
  • Yellowing of the eyes and skin or jaundice.
  • Increased urination.
  • Sweet, fruity-smelling breath, which is normally the symptom of diabetic ketoacidosis. 

What Causes Kussmaul Respirations?

Causes Kussmaul Respirations

Our body tries to maintain a pH level of 7.35 to 7.45. Whenever the pH level gets higher or lower, our body finds ways in order to make up for the changes in pH level. This is why Kussmaul breathing comes in. 

Here we will get to know some reasons that caused Kussmaul Respirations.

Diabetic Ketoacidosis


Here is the most common cause of Kussmaul Respirations, and that is diabetic ketoacidosis. This serious complication is most often related to type 1 diabetes. Though it also can be caused by type 2 diabetes as well. 

In case your body does not produce enough insulin or unable to produce glucose properly, it triggers diabetic ketoacidosis. As a result, dehydration may occur, and your body starts breaking fat at a rapid rate for energy. 

Ketones are the byproduct of this medical condition. Ketones are not only acidic but also can cause building up acids in your body. 

Following are the ways how Kussmaul breathing is led by diabetic ketoacidosis:

  • As a result of those extra ketones, acids are built up in the blood.
  • And due to that, your respiratory system starts to breathe faster. 
  • This faster breathing allows your body to expel more carbon dioxide, which is an acidic compound. 
  • In case the acid levels continue to go up, and you do not go for any treatment, your body will signal you that you need to breathe deeper.
  • This causes Kussmaul breathing, which has the characteristics of fast, deep breathing and tries to expel as much CO2 as possible.

There are also some other factors that also can cause Kussmaul Respirations.

Other Causes

Here are the other reasons for Kussmaul Respirations:

  • Some types of cancer.
  • Sepsis.
  • Seizures.
  • Long-term overconsumption of alcohol.
  • Organs like kidney, liver, and heart failure.
  • The injections of toxins, like methanol, antifreeze, ethanol, or aspirin (salicylates).
  • Overexertion generally resolves quickly with rest. 

All these conditions are the reason for building up acids in the blood. Apart from overexertion, all these conditions are created due to metabolic factors. 

This means those organs, which are generally responsible for filtering the wastes, can not perform it well as they normally do. These waste products are generally acidic and build up in the blood, and our body tries to recover the imbalance.  

Treatments Of Kussmaul Respirations

The treatment of Kussmaul Respirations involves addressing those medical conditions that cause Kussmaul Respirations. Most often, the patient needs to stay at the hospital to boost their health conditions and feel better.

Treating diabetic ketoacidosis typically needs electrolyte replacement along with intravenous. Until your blood sugar level reaches below 240 milligrams per deciliter, Insulin also needs to be administered the same way. 

In the case of uremia, when your kidneys fail to filter the waste that they need to dialysis may require. 

Preventing Kussmaul Respirations

Preventing Kussmaul Respirations

In case you have diabetes, you need to do the following things to prevent Kussmaul Respirations:

  1. Take diabetes medications as directed.
  2. Staying well hydrated.
  3. Testing urine for ketones. 
  4. Following the meal plans as per the healthcare provider.
  5. Check blood sugar level on a regular basis. 

In case you have kidney-related conditions, you need to follow:

  • Avoiding alcohol.
  • Staying well hydrated.
  • Following a kidney-friendly diet.
  • Keeping the level of blood sugar under control.


After reading the article, you get the idea about Kussmaul Respirations. Kussmaul breathing is not a medical situation that happens overnight. It can be characterized as the side effect of other severe medical conditions. So, if you maintain the blood sugar level and follow the prevention measures properly, there will be fewer chances of accusing Kussmaul of breathing. Remember, Kussmaul breathing needs immediate medical treatment. Otherwise, organ failure, coma, and most importantly, a person can die.   

FAQ( Frequently Asked Questions)

What is the difference between Kussmaul & Cheyne strokes? 

Kussmaul’s breathing stays within one pace and it does not include any kind of slow breathing, apneas, hypopneas. It also occurs while someone is awake. When someone is awake then it tends to occur several times.

What does Kaussmaul’s breathing sound like?     

The Kussmaul breathing occurs when the carbon dioxide in nature becomes acidic. It is the sound of the Kaussmaul’s breathing and it can make things work for you in all aspects.

When do you see Kussmaul Respiration?    

Kussmaul breathing occurs in some of the advanced stages of acidosis takes place. Rapid shallow breathing takes place in some of the severe cases it is also known as the Kussmaul breathing in most cases. It can help you to get rid of this mental trauma. You have to understand the process before indulging in it.



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