The official blog of the Lung Institute.
For people with chronic lung diseases, getting enough oxygen can be challenging. Because oxygen is essential to healthy bodily functions, not having enough oxygen can cause serious risks. These risks include issues with the brain, heart, lungs and even circulation to the arms and legs. When there’s either not enough oxygen-rich blood or poor circulation, people can develop problems in their arms and legs. Here’s what you need to know about how oxygen affects the extremities:
What is the main function of the circulatory system?
Consisting of the heart and blood vessels, the circulatory system’s main function is to provide the body with adequate nutrients and oxygen to all cells, organs and tissues. Arteries carry blood away from the heart, and veins carry blood back to the heart. There are two circulatory systems in the body: systemic circulation and pulmonary circulation.
Systemic circulation supplies oxygen-rich blood and important nutrients to the organs, tissues and cells. Pulmonary circulation provides fresh oxygen to the blood while removing carbon dioxide.
What do I need to know about how oxygen affects the extremities?
It’s important to learn how oxygen affects the extremities. Your arms and legs are farthest from your heart. In a healthy person, blood supply to and from the extremities works normally. However, for someone with certain chronic health conditions, such as lung diseases, blood oxygen levels may be low, and circulation may not function as well.
One of the symptoms someone with lung disease may experience is swelling in the legs, feet and ankles. While the swelling isn’t caused directly from having a lung disease, having complications of lung disease called pulmonary hypertension and cor pulmonale can cause swelling. Another complication of low blood oxygen levels is a change in skin color called cyanosis.
What are pulmonary hypertension and cor pulmonale?
Pulmonary hypertension occurs when there is high blood pressure in the lung’s blood vessels. Because of the changes to the blood vessels within the lungs, it makes it harder for the blood to travel through the vessels. For the blood to be pushed through the vessels, the heart has to work harder, resulting in high blood pressure. Unchecked and untreated, pulmonary hypertension can cause serious damage and should be treated by a doctor.
Pulmonary hypertension involves the heart and the lungs and over time can lead to cor pulmonale, in which a swelling of the right side of the heart prevents sufficient oxygenated blood from reaching the lungs, resulting in the body’s inability to absorb enough oxygen.
When the liver and kidneys, which filter toxins and fluids from the blood, receive insufficient oxygen, they become ineffective. This results in harmful swelling.
What is cyanosis?
Some people with chronic lung diseases may experience cyanosis, a visible symptom of which is a bluish tint to the skin. Central cyanosis mainly results in blueness in the lips, mouth and tongue, while peripheral cyanosis presents as blueness in the extremities.
The change in color associated with cyanosis is caused by low blood oxygen levels. Because oxygen-rich blood is red, and oxygen-lacking blood is blue, the color of the blood affects the body’s appearance. Typically, cyanosis occurs when blood-oxygen levels are below 90%.
What can I do to prevent low blood oxygen levels?
Chronic lung diseases like COPD can cause other conditions or problems such as pulmonary hypertension, cor pulmnale and cyanosis, so it’s essential to work regularly with your doctor on the best treatment plan for you. Your doctor may prescribe certain medications or supplemental oxygen to help your body get the oxygen it needs. If you have questions about how oxygen affects the extremities, remember to ask your doctor for more information.
Because adequate oxygen levels are essential to a properly functioning body, making sure you receive enough oxygen is important. There are many ways to help your body improve oxygen levels, such as stem cell therapy. Stem cell therapy promotes healing within the lungs, so after stem cell treatment, many patients report improved lung function and overall quality of life. At the Lung Institute, we’re happy to answer your questions and help you understand your treatment options, so contact us today at (800) 729-3065.