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Kussmaul Breathing


Kussmaul breathing, also known as Kussmaul’s respirations, is an unusual, deep, and labored breathing pattern – a condition that causes individuals to face trouble breathing, and that’s why it’s commonly referred to as “air hunger”.

It is a serious medical condition that warrants immediate medical attention to prevent the development of life-threatening complications.


What causes Kussmaul breathing? – The primary cause of this condition is the abnormally high acid level in your body – a condition known as metabolic acidosis. 7.35 – 7.45 is the normal PH level in your body, but if it gets lower than the standard range it becomes acidic, causing Kussmaul breathing.

Several factors can lead to the development of this condition – some of the common Kussmaul breathing causes include:

Diabetes-Related Acidosis (DKA):

One of the main Kussmaul breathing causes is diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which is a life-threatening illness associated with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Kussmaul breathing DKA – a condition refrains the body from producing enough glucose and insulin, leading to dehydration and increased ketones, which maximizes acid in the body and results in rapid breathing.

Other Kussmaul breathing causes include:

  • Multiple organ failures like heart, kidney, and liver failure.
  • Alcohol abuse 
  • Certain cancers
  • Overexertion
  • Seizures 
  • Sepsis
  • Ingestion of chemical substances 
  • Renal tubular acidosis


The Kussmaul breathing symptoms may include:

  • Hyperventilation 
  • Experiencing abnormal and rapid breathing.
  • High respiratory rate 
  • Feeling nauseous, exhausted, drowsy, and dizzy; along with shallow breathing.
  • High ketones levels in urine 
  • Increased urination
  • Sweet, fruity breath


Kussmaul breathing can be deadly if it isn’t timely diagnosed and treated. Most people don’t know much about this condition, and are unable to identify the warning signs, resulting in serious complications.

Make sure to keep an eye out to identify the Kussmaul breathing symptoms, and if you doubt being affected by this condition, visit your primary care physician for a diagnosis. 

The tests involved in Kussmaul breathing diagnosis include:

  • Blood test
  • CBC test
  • Arterial blood gas
  • Blood chemistry
  • Complete blood count
  • Urinalysis and urine ketones
  • Lactic acid level
  • Chest imaging

Timely diagnosis is very important for various reasons, such as:

  • Early diagnosis, followed by appropriate treatment, can save lives. 
  • An accurate diagnosis will help healthcare professionals choose the most suitable and effective treatment option.
  • An accurate diagnosis will provide awareness about this condition, help you make the required lifestyle changes, and prevent further risks and complications.
  • A correct diagnosis helps with the anxiety caused by health uncertainty.
  • Individuals with insurance coverage are required to submit the diagnosis to the insurance company before proceeding with coverage approval.


Kussmaul breathing is a serious condition that leaves people gasping for air, but fortunately, it is treatable. For effective Kussmaul breathing treatment, healthcare professionals must treat the underlying causes of this condition. 

  • Treatment involves the use of insulin, fluid, and electrolyte replacement.
  • Patients with renal tubular acidosis will be suggested diuretics. 
  • Uremia patients will require dialysis to reduce toxins.
  • Patients will be prescribed medications to ease the symptoms and improve their health.

When To See A Doctor

Individuals who are suffering from severe breathing problems should seek immediate medical help form their primary care physician, since respiratory distress can cause heart attack, lung failure, and immediate death.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the Kussmaul breathing symptoms listed above, visit your primary care physician at your earliest.


This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have concerns about Kussmaul breathing or any other medical condition, please see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment suggestions.