Hypoxemia, When the Blood is Lack of Oxygen

Hypoxemia is a condition in which oxygen levels in the blood are low. In fact, oxygen is needed to keep the organs and tissues of the body functioning properly. Hypoxemia can be detected through a physical examination and blood tests.

Hypoxemia is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. Without enough oxygen (even if only for a few minutes), this condition can progress to hypoxia and damage organs in the body, such as the heart, brain, kidneys, and other important organs can be damaged and not function properly. Come on, find out more about hypoxemia, its causes, symptoms, and how to treat it.

Some Causes of Hypoxemia

Hypoxemia can be caused by certain diseases or medical conditions including:

Respiratory or lung disorders, such as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), asthma, sleep apnea, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, interstitial lung disease, pneumothorax, pulmonary edema and pulmonary embolism.
Anemia, which is a condition in which the blood lacks healthy red blood cells.
Cardiovascular diseases, such as heart failure, arrhythmias, and heart disease.
Disorders of acid-base balance, such as acidosis.
Poisoning or side effects of certain drugs.

In addition to illness or medical conditions, environmental factors can also cause the amount of oxygen in the blood to decrease. Some of these environmental factors include:

Being at an altitude of more than 2,400 meters above sea level or more, for example when climbing a mountain.
Being in an environment full of cigarette smoke or being a passive smoker.
Exposed to severe air pollution.
Inhalation of toxic gases that make it difficult for the lungs to work.

In certain conditions, lack of oxygen can also be caused by other things, such as choking, obstructed airway by foreign objects, and accidents, thus obstructing the airway. This condition is also known as asphyxia.

Signs and Symptoms of Hypoxemia

Symptoms of hypoxemia can differ from one person to another, depending on the severity of the condition. However, the most common symptoms are:

Shortness of breath or heavy breathing.
The heart beats fast.
Blue skin, nails, and lips (cyanosis).
Loss of consciousness or coma.

To find out whether the symptoms that appear refer to hypoxemia, an examination by a doctor is needed. In determining the diagnosis and looking for the cause, the doctor will perform a complete physical examination, as well as support, such as blood tests and chest X-rays.

To determine the level of oxygen in the body, the following tests can be performed:

Pulse oximetry (pulse oximetry)
Pulse oximetry is a test to measure the level of oxygen in the blood. This test can also detect how efficiently oxygen is being circulated throughout the body. The test is done by pinching the fingers, toes, or earlobe with a pulse oximetry device.

Blood gas analysis
This test is done to measure the level of oxygen and other gases in the blood, as well as the level of acidity or pH of the blood. Blood gas analysis is done by taking blood samples from arteries in the wrist area.
Breathing test (spirometry)
A spirometry test is done to find out how optimal your breathing is and how well your lungs carry oxygen throughout your body. You are required to exhale deeply into a tube connected to a computer or other machine.
Handling Steps to Overcome Hypoxemia

Treatment of hypoxemia aims to increase oxygen levels in the blood. The treatment steps taken will depend on how severe the hypoxemia is and the underlying cause.

Some of the treatments that can be done are:

Oxygen therapy
Oxygen therapy using a mask or a tube filled with oxygen (nasal cannula). If the patient is unable to breathe on their own, intubation may be required to install a breathing apparatus in the form of a tube in the patient’s airway.
After the breathing apparatus is installed, the doctor can pump oxygen through a special oxygen-flowing bag (ambu bag), or use the help of a ventilator machine.
Administration of drugs
The choice of drugs can be very diverse, depending on the factors causing hypoxemia in the patient. If it is caused by asthma or narrowing of the airway, the doctor may prescribe bronchodilators and corticosteroids. For hypoxemia caused by infection, such as sepsis or pneumonia, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics.

For hypoxemia caused by anemia or heavy bleeding, the doctor can provide treatment in the form of blood transfusions. Because it is a severe condition that requires close medical monitoring and appropriate treatment, hypoxaemic patients will generally require treatment in the ICU.

As mentioned above, hypoxaemia needs to be treated as soon as possible by a doctor in a hospital. Otherwise, hypoxemia can cause severe damage to tissues and organs which can lead to organ failure, permanent organ damage, and even death.

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