Kussmaul Breathing: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention

You must have seen some people suffering from breathing problem either severe or normal. Sometimes people suffer from a breathing problem in which they have to breathe heavily or extremely fast. This condition shows as if the person is suffering to grasp oxygen such situation is called Kussmaul breathing. Let us try to know more about Kussmaul breathing, why this is caused, its symptoms, how to diagnose, its treatment methods and preventive measures. Let us now get into the article.

What is Kussmaul breathing?

It is the condition in which the patient develops deep and laboured breathing pattern. Mostly this is seen in diabetic patients and also has severe forms of metabolic acidosis. Kussmaul Breathing can also be explained as a condition the level of carbon dioxide decreases in the blood due to the deep breathing pattern of the individual. Also, this is seen mostly in metabolic acidosis which is the increase in acid level in the body where the breathing becomes extremely fast and it looks as if the individual is suffering from breath. The breathing where the individual is gasping for air is called Kussmaul Breathing.

Causes of Kussmaul Breathing

Kussmaul breathing ultimately causes a low-level of carbon dioxide in the blood due to deep breathing and rapid exhalation. Some conditions that can cause Kussmaul respiration are following:

Diabetic Ketoacidosis

Diabetic ketoacidosis is the condition where the glucose present in the blood is not used by the body to produce energy. This is due to lack of enough insulin in the body. As a result of this body is not able to process enough glucose to produce energy which causes dehydration.

Lactic Acidosis

This condition increases the level of lactic acid in the bloodstream. This result in lactic acid cause dysfunction of the kidney. The formation of lactic acid may be the result of overuse of muscles, low blood sugar level and overuse of alcohol.

Kidney failure

When dysfunction of kidney occurs excess acid, which is build up in the body is not able to filter out of the body. This will result in the imbalance of PH level in the body and ultimately result in the metabolic acidosis.


Peritonitis is the condition in which peritoneum the lining of abdominal cavity gets inflamed or swollen. This may also be a condition of malfunction of liver and the situation causes Kussmaul breathing.


Pneumonia is the infection of lungs which is the common cause of Kussmaul breathing. In this situation lung alveoli get filled up with fluid and due to which normal breathing turns into Kussmaul breathing.

Loss of buffers

Some conditions like diarrhoea, infection and malnutrition can cause the loss of some chemicals such as H ions which are present in insulin. Due to which lack of insulin occurs and ultimately that results in Kussmaul breathing.

Drug-based acidosis

Consuming very acidic substances may overload the body situation of maintaining neutral PH which causes Kussmaul breathing. This may be due to strong alcohols, poisons, diuretic medicines, aspirin and others.

Symptoms of Kussmaul Breathing

Kussmaul breathing occurs with metabolic acidosis having rapid and shallow breathing patterns. Kussmaul breathing symptoms are very obvious but severe situation can cause organ failure and even death. Common symptoms of Kussmaul breathing are following:

  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Sickness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive thirst
  • Yellowing of eyes
  • Increase in heartbeat
  • Excess urination
  • Loss of appetite

Diagnosis of Kussmaul Breathing

Kussmaul breathing is diagnosed with some common tests. These tests include arterial blood gas test, urine test, blood sugar test, electrolyte and general metabolism test. On the basis of these tests, doctor diagnoses and give confirmation whether the person has Kussmaul breathing or not. In the situation of diagnosing metabolic acidosis, it is seen that person’s PH level is less than 7. In case of diabetic ketoacidosis, the individual’s blood sugar level is checked and body is producing ketones and have acidic PH level.

Treatment of Kussmaul Breathing

Kussmaul breathing treatment is usually based on the cause which in most of the situations is diabetes or kidney failure. For treating Kussmaul breathing initially electrolyte enhanced fluids are given which is done either orally or intravenously. When the cause of Kussmaul breathing is metabolic acidosis the treatment mainly focuses on balancing the body pH.

When the person suffers from Kussmaul breathing it is highly important to make sure that the air passage of the patient remains completely clear and there is no restriction on that path. The person suffering from Kussmaul breathing sometimes have symptoms which are not able to diagnose easily.

In some patients, there is a risk of having the abnormal pH level of the body. Due to which it becomes important to admit the patient and the patient is given appropriate treatment to prevent Kussmaul Breathing.

Preventive Measures for Kussmaul Breathing

The person suffering from Kussmaul breathing should adopt some preventive measures along with treatment methods. This help to reduce the risk of developing metabolic acidosis. Let us have a look on some preventive measures of Kussmaul breathing.

  • Managing diabetes by taking proper prevention is the best method to reduce the effect of the disease.
  • Keep your body always hydrated, drink a lot of water, juices and necessary fluid.
  • Always maintain your body weight which is required normally
  • Keep the diet healthy and maintain this by reducing junk food intake.
  • Avoid excessive intake of alcohol
  • Avoiding exercise is recommended when muscle pain is present as lactic acid formation will occur more and more.


Kussmaul breathing can become very severe if not treated. This can cause organ failure, can send the person to Coma and even death of the person. Here in this article, we provided you complete details regarding Kussmaul breathing which will be very useful to you. The person needs to visit the doctor as it is highly recommended. Also, the individual should follow the necessary steps recommended by the doctor and preventive measures to recover easily.

Anukriti Srivastava

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