Hypoxia and Hypoxemia: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Hypoxia is a condition in which the body or a region of the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply at the tissue level. Hypoxia may be classified as either generalized, affecting the whole body, or local, affecting a region of the body. While Hypoxemia refers to low or zero arterial oxygen supply. Both 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 may vary depending on individual systems, the most common hypoxia symptoms are:

  • Changes in the color of your skin, ranging from blue to cherry red
  • Confusion
  • Cough
  • Increased heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Slow heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Wheezing

If you experience these symptoms of hypoxia, call 911.

How Is Hypoxia / Hypoxemia Treated

You should visit a hospital immediately to get appropriate treatment for hypoxia and to keep a check on your oxygen level.

In hypoxic situations, the most important thing is to get more oxygen into your body. Oxygen is administered either through a small plug in the patients nose or through a mask that covers the nose and mouth. For many people, this is enough to bring their oxygen level up to normal.

Inhalers may also be used, for asthma patients. If an inhaler is not effective, doctors can also administer hypoxia medicines through a vein (an IV). Steroid drugs are also administered, these help to shrink inflammation in the lungs.

In extreme cases where these treatments aren’t working, doctors may have to employ the use of an oxygen machine to help the patient breathe.

Causes of Hypoxia

  • Severe asthma attack – This can occur in both adults and kids, causing the airways to narrow, making it difficult to get air into the lungs. Coughing makes the symptoms worse
  • Lung injury, either from damage or trauma.
  • Lung diseases such as bronchitis, emphysema, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), and pulmonaary edema (fluid in the lungs)
  • Heart problems
  • Strong pain relievers and other drugs that obstruct breathing
  • Anemia (a condition in which an individual has low number of red blood cells)
  • Cyanide poisoning

Prevention & Cure

  • For Asthmatic patients, the nost effective preventive measure is to keep the asthma under control, every day. It’s always best to stick with your 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 do your best to avoid them.

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