Hypoxia deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching the tissues.
Hypoxemia an abnormally low concentration of oxygen in the blood.
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.
Although they can vary from person to person, the most common hypoxia symptoms are:
- Changes in the color of your skin, ranging from blue to cherry red
- Fast heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Shortness of breath
- The inability to communicate
- Possible Coma or death
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 may 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.
Causes of Hypoxia
A severe asthma attack, or flare, can cause hypoxia in adults and kids. During an attack, your airways narrow, making it hard to get air into your lungs. Coughing to clear your lungs uses even more oxygen and can make symptoms worse.
Hypoxia can also result from lung damage due to trauma.
Other things can cause hypoxia include:
- Lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) emphysema, bronchitis, pneumonia and pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs)
- Strong pain medicines and other drugs that hold back breathing
- Heart problems
- Anemia (a low number of red blood cells, which carry oxygen)
- Cyanide poisoning (Cyanide is a chemical used to make plastics and other products.)
The best way to prevent hypoxia is to keep your asthma under control, every day. Stick with your asthma treatment plan.
- Take your medicine to help prevent flares and the need to use your rescue inhaler.
- Eat right and stay active.
- Know your asthma triggers, and find ways to avoid them.
Work with your doctor to come up with an action plan for asthma attacks, so you know what to do when you have trouble breathing.
How is hypoxia and/or hypoxemia diagnosed?
In general, an individual patient’s hypoxemia is usually diagnosed by oxygen monitors placed on fingers or ears (pulse oximeter) and/or by determining the oxygen level in a blood gas sample (a sample of blood taken from an artery ). Normal readings are about 94% to 99% oxygen saturation levels; generally, oxygen is supplied if the level is about 92% or below.
Other tests may be ordered to determine if other potential problems such as carbon monoxide poisoning are responsible for the hypoxia.
Pulmonary function tests may also be ordered along with other studies to help determine the cause of unexplained low oxygen saturation.
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