Hypoxemia is a condition in which oxygen levels in blood are considerably lower than they should be; while a healthy blood oxygen saturation level is considered to be 95 – 100%, people suffering from low blood oxygen levels will have oxygen saturation levels below 90%.
There are many causes for hypoxemia, ranging from damage to the lungs caused by conditions such as COPD to breathing too little while you sleep. Hypoxemia can also be caused by environmental factors such as low oxygen levels in the surrounding air (at high altitudes, for example) or through low-oxygen activities such as underwater diving.
Hypoxemia isn’t a condition that should be ignored, as the consequences of leaving the condition untreated can be serious. Here are a few of the tell tale signs of hypoxemia; if you are suffering from any of these issues on a regular basis, consult your doctor.
Confusion, Memory Loss and Lack of Concentration
If you frequently find yourself struggling to concentrate, forgetting things even though they happened quite recently or confused then you could be suffering from low oxygen levels. This is because the level of oxygen reaching your brain has decreased, affecting cognitive function.
Fatigue is difficult to attribute solely to hypoxemia because the reasons for suffering from it could be as simple as not getting enough sleep but should be considered a warning sign in conjunction with other symptoms of hypoxemia. Fatigue affects different people in different ways and the onset of the symptom can take hold at a different pace.
Shortness of Breath
Shortness of breath is one of the most obvious symptoms of low blood oxygen. This symptom often does not manifest itself in an obvious manner initially and is more obvious at times of physical exertion, when a struggle to breath could be explained by a general lack of fitness. Combined with the other symptoms of hypoxemia, however, any struggle to breath should be taken seriously.
If you are suffering from a more serious case of hypoxemia then you may find it harder to breath at all times. If this is the case, contact your GP as soon as possible.
Headaches alone should not be considered a symptom of hypoxemia but are frequently associated with the condition. If you are suffering regular headaches in conjunction with the other symptoms listed in this post, get in touch with a GP.
As hypoxemia isn’t an easily diagnosable condition based on symptoms alone, it’s a good idea to use a pulse oximeter to monitor your oxygen saturation levels if you’re worried. These devices give you a clear reading of your blood oxygen levels, although it’s important to also consult your GP if you are suffering from the symptoms above.
Beyond that, treatment for low oxygen levels can vary depending on the severity of your condition. Mild cases of low blood oxygen can be remedied through lifestyle changes such as getting more exercise, eating foods rich in antioxidants and undertaking breathing exercises.
More serious cases of hypoxemia, however, could require oxygen therapy. In these instances, a doctor will prescribe an oxygen concentrator for home use, with the level of usage dependant on the severity of a patient’s condition.
Low blood oxygen levels are surprisingly prevalent in modern society, so it’s important to regularly monitor your wellbeing and visit your doctor if you’re concerned about your blood oxygen levels. For more information on oxygen therapy, pulse oximetry and portable oxygen concentrators, visit the contact us page.