What is hypoxia?
Hypoxia is a condition in which there is decreased oxygenation in the body tissues. It can be generalized, affecting the entire body, or local, affecting a specific part of the body. Hypoxia can cause damage to multiple organs and lead to fatal complications.
Hypoxemia is decreased oxygen in the blood. Hypoxemia can lead to hypoxia.
What are the causes of hypoxia?
Common causes of hypoxia include:
- Heart failure
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Lung infection
- Fluid accumulation in the lungs
- Damage, scarring, or collapse of the lungs
- Respiratory distress
- Drugs like narcotics
- Obstructive sleep apnea (manifests with loud snoring)
- Severe blood loss
- Obstruction of the airway due to tumors or foreign body
- Anaphylactic/allergic reactions
- Toxic chemicals like
Causes of hypoxia in a newborn:
What are the four types of hypoxia?
Hypoxic hypoxia (or arterial hypoxia):
- Reduced or lack of oxygen, leading to insufficient air available to the lungs. It can occur due to high altitude, closed breathing space, etc.
- Asthma and other disorders of the lung, heart, or brain can also cause hypoxic ischemia.
- Decreased hemoglobin levels in the blood, hence there is decreased oxygen capacity of the blood. Hemoglobin is a protein present in the red blood cells (RBC). It binds to oxygen and supplies oxygen to the entire body. They also give blood its characteristic red color.
- Anemic hypoxia can be caused due to heavy blood loss, decreasing the number of RBCs or decreased hemoglobin level due to severe iron deficiency or hemoglobin deformity.
- Inadequate blood flow to the body tissues because the velocity of blood flow decreases.
- This could be due to heart failure, severe blood loss, or clots in the blood vessel.
- The oxygen delivered to the tissues is normal, but the cells are unable to use the oxygen. For example, cyanide poisoning.
- Cyanide binds to the oxygen-binding proteins and other parts of the cells in the tissue, preventing the interaction and consumption of oxygen in the tissues.
What is the first sign of hypoxia?
The earliest signs of hypoxia are:
The other signs and symptoms of hypoxia include:
What is the treatment of hypoxia?
- Oxygen therapy is required as soon as possible.
- Treatment of the underlying condition with intravenous steroids or antibiotics.
- Acclimatization: This occurs in those who are exposed to high altitude for a while, wherein the body adapts to the state of decreased oxygen in the air.
What are the complications of hypoxia?
Hypoxia causes decreased oxygenation of multiple organs such as the brain, liver, kidneys, etc., damaging them, and ultimately leading to organ failure. It can potentially lead to death. Hypoxia during pregnancy may also result in fetal death. Hypoxia in newborns is associated with a high mortality rate.
If hypoxia is identified and treated early, patients can recover without any complications.
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