When you have a chronic lung disease, having enough oxygen is always on your mind.
The Risks of Not Having Enough Oxygen include suffering from the low-oxygen conditions hypoxemia or hypoxia. Without oxygen, the brain, liver, and other organs can begin to sustain damage mere minutes after symptoms start.
Hypoxemia (low oxygen in the blood) can cause hypoxia (low oxygen in body tissues) when the blood carries insufficient oxygen to the tissues to meet the body’s needs.
The word hypoxia can be used to describe both conditions.
What are the symptoms of hypoxia?
Though symptoms of hypoxia vary in individual cases, the most common hypoxia symptoms include:
- Changes in skin color, ranging from blue to bright red
- Fast heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Shortness of breath
If you have hypoxia symptoms, call 911.
A person experiencing hypoxia should go to the hospital for treatment. Someone will need to keep track of the person’s oxygen level.
It is essential to get more oxygen into the body. Oxygen will be administered through a small nose plug or a mask covering both the nose and mouth. This is usually enough to bring a person’s oxygen level up to normal.
An inhaler can make breathing easier. If these tactics fail to help, the doctor might try administering medicine intravenously. Steroid drugs may also be necessary for a short time to reduce pulmonary inflammation.
When one’s life is in danger and other treatments aren’t working, use of supplemental oxygen may be in order.
Causes of Hypoxia
- Lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs)
- Strong pain medications and other drugs that hinder breathing
- Heart conditions
- Anemia (low red blood cell count)
- Cyanide poisoning (a toxic chemical used in manufacturing plastics and other products)
The best way to prevent hypoxia is to stick with your treatment plan.
- Take medicine every day, on schedule, to help prevent flare-ups and the need to use a rescue inhaler.
- Eat a healthy diet, and be physically active.
- Know your triggers, and avoid them.
Work with your doctor to develop an action plan for flare-ups. Know what to do when breathing trouble strikes.
Hypoxia occurs when there is a reduced amount of oxygen in body tissues. Hypoxemia presented in COPD is relatively easy to correct with relatively small amounts of supplemental oxygen.
Remember to consult your doctor or call 911 if you have trouble breathing.
Christine Kingsley, APRN is the Health and Wellness Director at the Lung Institute where she focuses on providing helpful online resources for people looking for information on various lung diseases, breathing exercises, and healthy lifestyle choices. She advocates for holistic care that involves working with your doctor to explore all options including traditional and alternative care while focusing on diet and exercise as proactive measures.