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Hypoxia what are the signs

Hypoxia: what are the signs of insufficient oxygen supply?

Hypoxia occurs when the amount of oxygen reaching the organs (heart, brain, muscles…) is insufficient.

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Hypoxia: what exactly does that mean?

A little lesson in express medicine. Oxygen (O2) is supplied to the body through the air we breathe.

Once it reaches the lungs, it passes into the bloodstream and attaches to red blood cells (especially hemoglobin) for transport throughout the body.

Thus, oxygen is delivered to the muscles, the brain, the heart… Blood without oxygen returns to the lungs and carbon dioxide (CO2) is expelled from the body through exhalation.

Hypoxia: definition. Hypoxia occurs when the amount of oxygen supplied to the organs and muscles by the blood is insufficient.

What causes hypoxia? There are three main causes of hypoxia:

  • Insufficient oxygen in the air (e.g. at high altitudes): this is called supply hypoxia,
  • Breathing failure (e.g., if the lung is punctured) that makes it difficult for oxygen to pass into the bloodstream
  • A defect in the transport of oxygen by red blood cells: this is called hypoxemia.

Hypoxia: is it serious? Obviously there are several stages of hypoxia.

Hypoxia can have very serious consequences when it is the heart or the brain that is deprived of oxygen (for example, in the case of a myocardial infarction or a stroke): if left untreated, it can cause cardiorespiratory arrest, and therefore a coma and death,” explains Dr. Olivier-Jacques Bocrie-Jeantet, a general practitioner. However, there is slight hypoxia: muscle cramps, for example.

Hypoxia: what are the symptoms and treatments?

In particular, hypoxia can be linked to :

  • A heart attack: also known as a “heart attack”,
  • Stroke,
  • A muscle cramp,
  • Heart Failure: Heart failure (which can be acute or chronic) is the inability of the heart to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs,
  • Respiratory failure: This condition (which can also be acute or chronic) is the inability of the respiratory system to absorb enough oxygen (O2) and adequately remove carbon dioxide (CO2).
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): “this concerns mainly smokers” says the general practitioner,
  • A blood clot,
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning,
  • Severe Anemia: The decrease in the number of red blood cells does not allow the organs to get enough oxygen,
  • Thalassemia: This blood disease (also called “Mediterranean anemia”) is characterized by abnormal hemoglobin. Red blood cells are unable to carry oxygen properly to organs.

What are the symptoms of hypoxia? Hypoxia (i.e., insufficient oxygen supply to the body) is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • An increase in heart rate: palpitations or tachycardia
  • A suffocating sensation with hyperventilation: the person is “looking for his air”,
  • Cyanotic skin: bluish discoloration of the lips is observed.

And also… At high altitude, oxygen depletion in the air can be responsible for supply hypoxia.

This is known as “mountain sickness”: this condition manifests itself through headaches, dizziness, loss of appetite, nausea and/or vomiting, unusual fatigue and/or weakness, irritability, and even (in the most severe cases) mental confusion and loss of balance leading to coma.

Hipoxia – Don’t worry: “mountain sickness” is extremely rare under an altitude of 2440 meters…

Before any performance at altitude (in mountaineering, for example), athletes must pass a “hypoxia resistance test” designed to evaluate their ability to adapt to altitude.

Hypoxia: what treatment? The diagnosis of hypoxia involves first a clinical examination and then a blood test to measure the levels of oxygen and CO2 in the blood. The test is called “blood gas” and is taken from the radial artery in the wrist.

The treatment of hypoxia is obviously based on treating the cause (myocardial infarction, stroke, anemia, etc.) and then administering high doses of oxygen, for example, through an oxygen mask or a nasal tube.

Other Options: Hipoxia

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