What is hypoxia?

Hypoxia is described as diminished oxygen supply in the body. The body acquires insufficient supply of oxygen to the organs in the body. This can lead to the manifestation of the traditional symptoms in asthma such as the following:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath

Hypoxia is usually diagnosed by assessment of the oxygen saturation. This is performed with the use of a pulse oximeter or blood gas. Pulse oximetry is a non-invasive technique to monitor oxygen saturation.

By attaching the sensor to a finger, earlobe or other body part, light waves are transmitted across the skin and can determine the oxygen saturation. Pulse oximeters generally read the oxygen saturation as a percentage. The normal reading is 95-100 percent depending on the clinical situation. Remember that saturation levels below 90% are almost always abnormal.


Chest tightness and shortness of breath are indications of hypoxia.

Causes of hypoxia

Hypoxia can lead to inflammation and constriction of the airways, thus causing diminished oxygen to be delivered than the demands of the body.

Diseases where hypoxia plays a role

  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Pneumonia
  • Lung cancer
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Obesity hypoventilation syndrome

What are the signs and symptoms of hypoxia?

  • Cyanosis (bluish discoloration of the skin)
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Euphoria (feeling of increased well-being)
  • Lightheadedness
  • Hypertension (elevated blood pressure)
  • Sweating
  • Tachycardia (rapid heart rate)
  • Visual changes
  • Tachypnea (increased breathing rate)

If the individual shows any of the signs and symptoms of hypoxia, he/she must be taken to the hospital for proper assessment. It is vital to closely monitor the symptoms since those who have asthma might develop the symptoms slowly.

Assessment of hypoxia at home

At the present, anyone can readily assess hypoxia at home. All you have to do is to purchase a pulse oximeter at any local electronic store in order to assess the oxygen status. Remember that hypoxia is considered as a medical emergency. If you can check the oxygen status at home and it reveals a low level, it is best to seek medical care as soon as possible.

Treatment of hypoxia

The treatment of hypoxia typically involves raising the level of oxygen. It simply means providing oxygen to increase oxygen saturation. The individual might receive oxygen via nasal prongs called as nasal cannula or receive oxygen via a face mask.

Among those who have asthma, treatment involving medications can also improve hypoxia. Take note that albuterol and other short-acting beta agonists will help relieve constricted airways. The inhaled or systemic steroids work by reducing the inflammation that will also open up the airways.

Can hypoxia be prevented?

The ideal way to prevent hypoxia is to keep the asthma under control. Remember that those who have asthma must have an asthma action plan and carefully follow it. The individual should take his/her controller medications on a regular basis and utilize rescue inhalers correctly to help prevent flare-ups of asthma.


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