The organs in your body all require oxygen to function properly. This oxygen is transported throughout the body by the blood. The heart pumps blood into the lungs, where it releases carbon dioxide that the body has produced and picks up oxygen. Respiratory failure is a condition where not enough oxygen is transferred into the blood in the lungs. Respiratory failure can also occur if your lungs are not able to remove the carbon dioxide from the blood. A surplus of carbon dioxide in the blood can also harm the body's organs.
Respiratory failure can be caused by lung diseases that affect your breathing, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary hypertension and interstitial lung disease. Spinal cord injuries can also cause respiratory failure since they can involve damage to the nerves that control breathing.
Respiratory failure can be short-term (acute) or ongoing (chronic). Acute respiratory failure can develop very quickly and may require emergency treatment. Chronic respiratory failure develops more slowly and lasts for a longer period of time.