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The hypoxia is a disease characterized by reduced oxygen supplying blood to different organs, tissues and cells of the body. This disorder is closely related to hypoxemia, which is a decrease in the amount of oxygen carried by the blood through the red blood cells.

Hypoxia definition: What is this disease?

Hypoxia is a disease characterized by insufficient oxygen in the bloodstream , which causes that both the tissues and cells that make up the human body do not receive the oxygen they need for their proper functioning. A risky situation that in some cases can lead to death.

The operation is as follows. First, the tissues of the lungs are responsible for extracting oxygen from the inhaled air . This oxygen then enters the bloodstream. Thus, in combination with hemoglobin, it travels through the blood to tissues and cells.

Types of hypoxia

Depending on the mechanism, different types of hypoxia can be differentiated, each with its own symptoms and treatments.

Brain hypoxia

It is one of the most common types of hypoxia of all. It occurs when the brain does not receive the amount of oxygen it needs. It is a relatively common situation in both adults and children, which occurs when a person is in cardiac arrest or drowning. Cerebral hypoxia can also occur as a result of different injuries related to this organ, such as a stroke.


The causes of cerebral hypoxia are very diverse.

  • Complications of general anesthesia during a surgical intervention.
  • Extremely low blood pressure
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Drowning
  • Being in a place above 2,500 meters of altitude.
  • Brain injury.

Anyone can suffer from hypoxia of this type if their brain does not receive enough oxygen. Of course, there are certain population groups in which this disorder is more likely. This is the case of swimmers and divers , who hold their breath for long periods of time. Also mountaineers.


As for the symptoms of cerebral hypoxia, these are especially notorious: temporary memory loss , inability to move the body and difficulty in both attention and concentration. The most serious signs are coma and brain death.

In the presence of one or more of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. Depending on the evidence presented and the patient’s medical history , the doctor may order various tests to determine the diagnosis. An MRI is usually done that shows images of the head in great detail.

Tissue hypoxia

The tissue hypoxia is one in which the lack of oxygen affects a specific organ or area of the body. A life-threatening situation that requires urgent action.

The oxygen supply of the tissues depends on two fundamental factors: the cardiac output and the arterial oxygen content. Well, if this process is affected in any way, the body’s cells die, thus leading to tissue hypoxia.

One of the most common causes of this disease is the low pressure of oxygen in the air that is breathed at high altitudes . It is common in mountaineers and is known by the name of “altitude sickness”.


As experts point out, the lack of oxygen in the body’s tissues can respond to different mechanisms.

  • Anemic hypoxia: Anemic hypoxia is defined as one in which the lungs function properly, but the ability of the blood to carry oxygen is reduced due to low levels of hemoglobin. It is a very common situation in people who suffer from anemia.
  • Hypoxemic hypoxia: it is generated as a result of insufficient oxygenation of the arterial blood due to the decrease of oxygen in the inspired air.
  • Circulatory hypoxia: as its name suggests, it occurs when there is not enough blood supply to the tissues.
  • Histotoxic hypoxia: in this case the tissues are not able to capture the amount of oxygen they need to function properly. It is a common disorder in people poisoned by cyanide, among other causes.


As for the symptoms of tissue hypoxia , the most common are: bluish or bruised skin due to lack of oxygen, intense muscle fatigue, headache , fainting , drowsiness or insomnia, and digestive system disorders .

Symptoms of hypoxia

Regarding the signs of this disease, they can be divided into three large groups depending on their typology.

  • Cognitive: the most common symptom is short-term memory loss. There are also others such as irritability, poor judgment and rationing, visual disturbances and difficulty paying attention.
  • Physical: Signs of hypoxia also affect physical health. People have great difficulties in coordinating movements, as well as in standing. Muscle stiffness and tightness are other symptoms that recur frequently.
  • Communicational: and, finally, the symptoms related to communication. People with hypoxia have difficulty speaking, so that communication is practically impossible.

Complications of hypoxia

Hypoxia is a risky medical situation, before which urgent measures must be taken. Otherwise, chronic sequelae and serious complications can occur , even causing death.

One of the possible complications is brain damage because the brain has been without oxygen for a long period of time. Different body tissues can also die, leading to gangrene.

The anoxia is one of the complications that can arise from an undiagnosed or treated early hypoxia. It occurs when the body or brain completely loses its supply of oxygen. Complete oxygen deprivation can cause serious damage to the body, or even be fatal.

Diagnosis of hypoxia

At the slightest sign of hypoxia of any kind, it is important to see a doctor. Based on the evidence presented and the patient’s medical history, the doctor can identify the cause.

To determine both the presence and the degree of hypoxia it is necessary to perform different medical tests. One of the most common is an arterial blood test to determine the oxygen concentration and the amount of hemoglobin. It can also be estimated with a pulse oximeter, which is placed on the fingertip and indicates the percentage of oxygen saturation.

Hypoxia treatments

Once hypoxia has been diagnosed, it is necessary to apply the most appropriate medical treatment for the disease. Depending on the cause, it is necessary to treat it, for example, with the use of bronchodilators for asthma .

Oxygen Therapy

When there is a decrease in oxygen in the blood , whatever the cause, one of the best medical alternatives is oxygen therapy . It is a measure that consists of the administration of oxygen in concentrations greater than those found in the ambient air.

In the case of normobaric oxygen therapy , the patient is administered different concentrations of oxygen through masks or oxygen cannulas. Regarding hyperbaric oxygen therapy, the patient receives 100% oxygen concentrations through a mask or helmet while inside a chamber.

Tips to prevent hypoxia

Although there is no 100% foolproof method to prevent this disease, there are a number of guidelines and tips that are worth remembering.

  • Mountain climbing: when ascending above 2,000 meters, it is necessary to have the appropriate training. In addition, during the ascent, it is best to gradually acclimatize to the increasing altitude. To do this, you climb a certain distance and then camp for a few days. Of course, it is important that mountaineers always carry oxygen cylinders and face masks.
  • Indications: it is very important to pay special attention to the symptoms in both adults and children. In case of hypoxia, it is important to administer oxygen therapy as soon as possible.

What is hypoxemia?

The hypoxemia is defined as a level of oxygen in the blood below normal, particularly in arteries. It is a relatively simple disorder to diagnose since it is only necessary to measure the oxygen level of a sample of blood from an artery, for which an arterial blood gas is performed . An estimate can also be made using an oximeter to find out what the oxygen saturation in the blood is.

Regarding the causes of hypoxemia , this is a relatively common disorder in patients who suffer from some of the following diseases: anemia, asthma, congenital heart disease, interstitial lung disease, pneumonia, pulmonary edema, or sleep apnea.

It is important to see a doctor urgently if you have any of the following symptoms: difficulty breathing after doing any type of mild physical activity or being at rest, and waking up suddenly feeling suffocated.

In conclusion, it is interesting to note that hypoxia is a serious medical problem. If not taken care of immediately, it can lead to very serious and chronic physical and brain damage, and even death.

Recovery is highly dependent on the injuries and complications that have occurred from lack of oxygen. In some cases, the rehabilitation and recovery of the patient can take several years.

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Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of ​​Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.

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