What Is Hypoxia?

Hypoxia is a medical condition wherein the body or any tissue is deprived of oxygen. It is different from hypoxemia, another medical condition where the blood specifically, is deprived of oxygen. Anoxia is an extremely severe form of hypoxia where the oxygen is almost absent in the tissues. Lack of oxygen supply to the brain tissues can be fatal and symptoms occur just minutes after inadequate oxygen supply. Hypoxia is usually irreversible and affects vital organs such as brain, heart etc. It can arise due to different reasons, hence there are different types of Hypoxia, namely:

  • Hypoxic Hypoxia– Inadequate supply of oxygen to the lungs due to drowning, chocked airway etc.
  • Anaemic Hypoxia– Reduction of the blood’s ability to carry oxygen, usually caused by haemoglobin disorders such as sickle cell anaemia.
  • Stagnant Hypoxia– Insufficient flow of blood resulting in oxygen starvation, usually caused by heart diseases or even heart failure.
  • Histotoxic Hypoxia– Inability of tissues and cells to use up oxygen supplied. Typically induced by poisons such as cyanide.
  • Metabolic Hypoxia– Inability to meet oxygen demand supply due to high metabolic activities

What Causes Hypoxia?

As stated above, Hypoxia can have many causes, but the most common are:

  • Narrowing of airways due to asthma attacks
  • Extremely distressing situations can lead to damage of lungs, causing hypoxia
  • Medications that affect the breathing process
  • Lung-related disorders such as Bronchitis, Pulmonary oedema, Pneumonia
  • Various heart ailments
  • Anaemia
  • High altitudes and low oxygen levels in the surrounding environment
  • Brain haemorrhage due to accidents
  • The inability of tissues to absorb oxygen supplied by the lungs
  • Stagnant circulation of air, also, the buildup of carbon dioxide in an enclosed space can cause Hypoxia
  • Inhaling inert gases such as nitrogen can lead to fulminating hypoxia (sudden and severe onset)
  • Lack of oxygen-rich blood to the brain can impair mental acuity and lead to consequent brain disorders and diseases.

Also Read: Brain Diseases

Signs Of Hypoxia

Signs of hypoxia vary depending upon the circumstances and the causal factors. But common symptoms of hypoxia include:

  • Headache
  • Dyspnea – Shortening of breath
  • Syncope – Feel dizzy
  • Ambivalence in decision making
  • Sluggishness
  • Increased rate of heartbeat and breathing rate
  • Anxiety
  • Impaired motor coordination
  • Impaired visibility
  • Cyanosis

How To Treat Hypoxia?

Treatment depends upon the causal factor and the severity. However, common symptoms such as shortness of breath are usually dealt with by providing oxygen therapy to the patient. In severe conditions, mechanical ventilators are used for the treatment. Under suitable pressure, increased levels of oxygen can be supplied to the body tissues which has proven to improve the condition. Liquid oxygen is also provided in a few cases. Suitable medications can also improve the condition. Passive measures to combat hypoxia includes avoiding environmental triggers (smoking), adopting an active lifestyle and healthy diet. To explore more about Hypoxia or other related conditions, register at BYJU’S.

Further reading: Human Brain

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