Hypoxia is a condition in which the body is deprived of sufficient supply of oxygen. A mismatch of supply and demand at the cellular level could result to hypoxic condition. Severe case of hypoxia in which there is a complete deprivation of oxygen supply is termed as anoxia.
The terms hypoxia and hypoxemia are often interchanged. Hypoxemia means low oxygen concentration level in the arterial blood while hypoxia is the oxygen sufficiency at the tissue/cellular level. Possible causes of hypoxia would be due to anemia, high altitudes such as in mountain climbing activities leading to potentially fatal complications including high latitude pulmonary and cerebral edema. It could also occur on healthy individuals such as those diving underwater using closed-circuit re-breather systems. Mild, intermittent hypoxia is due to altitude trainings with the purpose of enhancing athletic performances adaption to both systemic and cellular level.
There are several classifications of hypoxia, the following are as follows:
Hypoxemic hypoxia is a generalized hypoxia and is highly fatal. There is insufficient oxygen supply of the whole body caused by low partial pressure of oxygen in the arterial blood. Partial pressure is the pressure by which a gas occupies the volume alone.
Hypemic hypoxia is a state in which the arterial oxygen pressure is normal but the total oxygen content of the blood is reduced.
Ischemic or stagnant hypoxia is a state in which there is hindrance in the flow of the well-oxygenated blood apparent in conditions of cerebral ischemia and ischemic heart disease.
Signs and symptoms of generalized hypoxia develop gradually as in the case of altitude sickness, euphoric feeling, shortness of breath and nausea are experienced. On the other hand, severe hypoxia has rapid onset that can lead to changes in level of consciousness, coma, seizures and even death. Cyanosis is also evident as manifested in the blue discoloration of the skin indicating extremely poor oxygen supply. A low oxygen percentage level is reflected in the pulse oximeter.
Hypoxia can lead to death if it is left untreated. Luckily, there are means to counter its effects. The body must return PO2 toward normal level. This is possible through acclimatization in which the body adapts to higher altitudes partially restoring PO2 to standard levels. Hyperventilation could also help in increasing PO2 by raising the depth and rate of breathing. Another option is the use of oxygen concentrators. This increases the oxygen level concentration by almost 30% resulting to increased work productivity, improved sleep, less fatigue and yielding an adequate oxygen oximeter reading.
Hypoxia could attack any individuals at any age and races. It is a condition which can be detrimental to health if not addressed abruptly.
—-> Styla Brite is a published author and product reviewer.