How Dangerous is Hypoxemia



Hypoxia and Hypoxemia

When your body doesn’t have enough oxygen, you could get hypoxemia or hypoxia. These are dangerous conditions. Without oxygen, your brain, liver, and other organs can be damaged just minutes after symptoms start.

Hypoxemia (low oxygen in your blood) can cause hypoxia (low oxygen in your tissues) when your blood doesn’t carry enough oxygen to your tissues to meet your body’s needs. The word hypoxia is sometimes used to describe both problems.

Hypoxia and Hypoxemia facts

  • Hypoxia is a condition or state in which the supply of oxygen is insufficient for normal life functions; hypoxemia is a condition or state where there is a low arterial oxygen supply  in some publications these terms are used interchangeably.
    There are a variety of causes and potential causes of any type of hypoxia.
  • Symptoms of hypoxia and/or hypoxemia may be acute, chronic, or severe. Common acute symptoms are:
    • shortness of breath,
    • rapid breathing, and
    • a fast heart rate.
  • Severe symptoms include:
    • The inability to communicate
    • Confusion
    • Possible coma or death
    • Other associated symptoms also may be present.
  • Hypoxia or hypoxemia symptoms in children may be mouth breathing and drooling.
    In general, diagnosis of hypoxia and/or hypoxemia is diagnosed examination and by oxygen monitors (pulse oximeters), oxygen level in a blood gas sample and may include pulmonary function tests.
  • Treatment for hypoxia and/or hypoxemia is to get additional oxygen into the environment or the body (blood) is quickly as possible. Techniques vary widely according to the patient’s condition, but may include oxygen by face mask or nasal cannula, mechanical ventilation (intubation), hyperbaric chamber, or other devices or medicines to open airways.
  • Hypoxia and/or hypoxemia may be prevented in some individuals by avoiding circumstances that reduce oxygen concentration in the environments or by providing oxygen before symptoms develop. People with asthma can prevent hypoxia/hypoxemia symptoms by taking certain medications on a regular basis as prescribed by their doctor.

Causes of Hypoxia and Hypoxemia

Common causes of hypoxemia include:

  • A blocked airway
  • Anemia
  • ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome)
  • Certain medications, such as narcotics and anesthetics, which depress breathing
  • Congenital heart disease  heart defects that are present at birth
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Emphysema
  • High altitudes
  • Interstitial lung disease
  • Pneumonia
  • Pneumothorax
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Sleep apnea

What are the symptoms of Hypoxia and Hypoxemia?

The symptoms of hypoxia and/or hypoxemia may be acute or chronic.

Acute symptoms can come on rapidly and usually consist of:

  • shortness of breath,
  • rapid breathing, and
  • a fast heart rate.

Other associated symptoms that can occur in both acute and chronic hypoxia and hypoxemia include:

  • Wheezing
  • Sweating
  • Coughing

The affected individual may be mildly confused initially and appear weak or may experience rapid changes in the color of their skin ranging from blue to cherry red (depending on the causes)

Severe symptoms seen with cerebral hypoxia include:

  • confusion,
  • inability to communicate,
  • coma, and
  • may result in death.

The symptoms in pediatric patients can be similar to the above and may include the following:

  • Lethargy
  • Irritableness
  • Anxiousness
  • Inattentiveness
  • Sitting up and leaning forward to improve diaphragmatic breathing
    Children with epiglottitis and airway restriction may drool and mainly breathe by mouth.

How It’s Treated

You’ll need to go to the hospital to get treatment for hypoxia and to keep a check on your oxygen level.

The most important thing is to get more oxygen into your body. You’ll receive it through a small plug in your nose or through a mask that covers your nose and mouth. For many people, this is enough to bring your oxygen level up to normal.

An inhaler or asthma medicine by mouth can make breathing easier. If these don’t help, the doctor might try giving you medicine through a vein in your arm (an IV). You might also need steroid drugs for a short time to shrink inflammation in your lungs.

When your life is in danger and other treatments aren’t working, you may need a machine to help you breathe.