Know the basics
What is hypoxia?
Hypoxia is a condition where there is low oxygen in your tissues. It is caused by hypoxemia – the level of oxygen in your blood is lower the normal level. Sometimes, hypoxia is used to indicate both two conditions. Hypoxia and hypoxemia can be a symptom of other conditions that cause difficulty in breathing and circulation. Approximately 75 to 100 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) is the normal arterial oxygen. If your values are under 60 mm Hg, you have hypoxia and will need supplemental oxygen to help.
How common is hypoxia?
This health condition is common. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
Know the symptoms
What are the symptoms of hypoxia?
The symptoms of hypoxia vary from people to people. However, the common signs and symptoms of hypoxia are:
- Respiratory track problems: shortness of breath, rapid breathing, cough, and wheezing;
- Cardiovascular track problems: fast heart rate;
- Brain or conscious problems: headache and confusion;
- Color changes of your skin, ranging from blue to cherry red;
- Others: restlessness and sweating.
There may be some signs or symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:
- You feel shortness of breath after even slight exertion or while you are at rest;
- You feel shortness of breath that get worse when you exercise or when you are physical active;
- Disrupted sleep due to shortness of breath during sleep, this could be a symptom of sleep apnea.
If you have the following symptoms, you should contact your doctor immediately:
- Severe and sudden shortness of breath affects your ability to function;
- Severe shortness of breath with a cough, rapid heartbeat and fluid retention at high elevations.
Know the causes
What causes hypoxia?
Hypoxia is caused by abnormalities in the functions and structure of your respiratory and circulation tracks. Some conditions may lead to hypoxia, such as:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD);
- Pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs);
- Anemia – a low number of red blood cells carry oxygen and cyanide poisoning.
Hypoxia can be results from a severe asthma attack. During an attack, your breathing pathway narrows down significantly, makes it extremely hard to get enough air into your lungs.
Sometimes, the medications you take can lead to hypoxia, such as strong pain medicines and other drugs that hold back breathing.
Know the risk factors
What increases my risk for hypoxia?
There are many risk factors for hypoxia, such as:
- External risks include smoking or secondhand smoke, air pollution, chemicals, dust in the air or high altitude.
- Internal risks can be presence of one or more unhealthy status of your lungs and cardiovascular organs.
Understand the diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is hypoxia diagnosed?
The doctor can diagnose by evaluate the level of oxygen presenting in your blood gas using pulse oximeter (medical device that clips to your finger) or measuring directly on the blood sample taken from an artery. Normal oximeter readings are about 95% to 100%. If your oxygen level is valued at 90% or below, you might in hypoxia condition.
Other tests may be required in some cases if the doctor wants to check if there are other potential problems such as carbon monoxide poisoning that are responsible for the hypoxia. It can be pulmonary function tests along with other studies to help determine the cause of unexplained low oxygen saturation
How is hypoxia treated?
It is necessary for you to stay at the hospital to get treatment for hypoxia and to keep a check on your oxygen level. The key thing in emergency case is that you need to get more oxygen into your body. The doctor can use a mask that covers your nose and mouth or a small plug in your nose to provide you with oxygen.
If this can’t supply you enough oxygen to increase your oxygen level up to normal, an inhaler or asthma medicine by mouth can be chosen to make breathing easier. If these don’t work, you can receive 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.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage hypoxia?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with hypoxia:
- Stop smoking. If you’ve been diagnosed with hypoxia or another lung disease, quit smoking is one the very first thing you need to do to improve your condition.
- Avoid passive smoke. Besides giving up smoking, you also need to avoid places where others smoke. Secondhand smoke can cause much further lung damage than smoking yourself.
- Get regular exercise. Proper exercise is really helpful for you to improve your overall strength and endurance.
- Eat right and stay active.
- Know your asthma triggers, and find ways to avoid them.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017
Hypoxia and Hypoxemia. http://www.webmd.com/asthma/guide/hypoxia-hypoxemia. Accessed June 13, 2016.
Hypoxemia. http://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/hypoxemia/basics/when-to-see-doctor/sym-20050930. Accessed June 13, 2016.