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What is hypoxemia andwhat are the main characteristics?

Hypoxemia is a medical term for the condition in which the supplyof oxygen to the cells is either decreased or interrupted, which means that oxygenlevel in the body is much lower than it should be. This condition definitely hasa negative effect on the whole body and its functioning, and in some cases it caneven be life-threatening or have a fatal outcome.

The symptoms that can indicatethis condition are shortness of breath in the first place, and then headaches, tiredness,anxiety, confusion, and disorientation. However, all these symptoms indicatemilder cases, while those that are severe and that require medical help areindicated by bluish color of the skin, irregular breathing, increased bloodpressure, increased heartbeat rate, and even ventricular fibrillation and comaare possible.

Still, since several other conditions have very similar symptoms,hypoxemia may easily be misdiagnosed, which is why, in order to officially diagnosehypoxemia, the level of oxygen in the blood has to be measured by oximeter, which has to be clipped onto one’s finger. All the values that areunder 90 - 80 % are considered to be low, and they do need a medical treatment.

What are the causes ofhypoxemia?

Once the diagnosis is set, it is necessary to determine whatprovoked hypoxemia, and there are several possible causes. Some of them arehypoventilation, which means that the oxygen content is decreased, while thelevel of carbon dioxide is increased; the condition known as left to rightshunt, which is characterized by the blood being transferred from the left side of the heart tothe right.

Other frequent causes are anemia, obstruction of the airway, variousheart diseases, various diseases of lungs, such as pneumonia, pulmonary edema,pulmonary embolism, pulmonary fibrosis, interstitial lung disease and others,though shock or, for example, high altitudes can also cause hypoxemia. Some medicationssuch as narcotics and anesthetics may also cause it.

People who suffer from chronic shortness of breath may takea few steps on their own, in order to prevent this symptom from getting worse. Some of such steps are quitting smoking, avoiding the exposure to thesecondhand smoke, and regular exercising, which can improve the overall healthand strengthen the respiratory muscles. However, if the condition requiresmedical treatment, it will include supplemental oxygen therapy and transfusionof packed red blood cells.

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