Hypoxia and hypoxemia are life-threatening conditions that often occur at altitude. Learn from the altitude experts about these conditions, the differences in symptoms and how they’re treated.
Here at Summit Oxygen, we’re one of the nation’s top medical oxygen suppliers, and we love altitude. It’s where you get to play in the mountains and experience life a little more elevated. But altitude brings with it it’s own set of issues, many of which involve medical complications surrounding oxygen and the body’s ability to maintain adequate supplies.
Two common medical issues people face at altitude are hypoxia and hypoxemia. The difference between hypoxia and hypoxemia can be subtle yet critical to understand correctly.
What Is Hypoxemia?
Hypoxemia is a specific medical condition where a patient’s blood does not carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues.
What Is Hypoxia?
Hypoxia is a general term to describe a medical condition where there is not enough oxygen getting to your tissues. Hypoxemia can cause hypoxia, as hypoxemia leads to low tissues oxygen levels.
So while both hypoxia and hypoxemia describe issues with oxygen reaching body tissue, these are two distinct conditions. One main difference between hypoxemia and hypoxia is that hypoxemia can cause hypoxia, and thus the hypoxemia and hypoxia are often referred to as hypoxia.
Both hypoxemia and hypoxia can share a list of common symptoms which include:
While hypoxemia and hypoxia share a common list of symptoms, they also share several differences.
Patients With Hypoxia May Experience:
Patients With Hypoxemia May Experience:
The main causes of hypoxemia and hypoxia range from pre-existing medical conditions to the sudden onset of these conditions due to high altitude.
Because hypoxemia and hypoxia are treated so differently, it is critical to understand the differences between the two so that patients receive proper treatment and how to increase blood oxygen levels.
Hypoxia can become a life-threatening condition within moments, thus it should be immediately and aggressively treated.
Mild hypoxia treatment methods involve simply allowing the patient to rest and recuperate, encouraging deep, slow breaths and making the patient as comfortable as possible.
As hypoxia escalates in severity, portable oxygen concentrators may be employed in order to increase the oxygen reaching patients’ tissues.
The most aggressive form of hypoxia therapy involves an immediate medical evacuation, by air if possible, to the nearest hyperbaric chamber where patients are administered oxygen at above-atmospheric levels.
Remember, hypoxemia can lead to hypoxia, and it is important to treat as early as possible.
Patients experiencing mild hypoxemia are advised to lie flat on the ground, as that improves oxygen levels in the body. Patients may be put on a CPAP machine to increase blood oxygen levels, and patients are administered packed red blood cells in more severe cases hypoxemia treatments.
Oxygen levels within the body are critical to understand when treating hypoxia, and treatment will reflect the severity of the condition.
Drinking water is critical when you’re at high altitudes. While drinking water doesn’t necessarily alleviate the symptoms of altitude sickness, proper hydration helps your body better handle the effects of altitude. It also helps you identify if your altitude sickness is progressing; sometimes when people are dehydrated, they attribute their symptoms of worsening altitude sickness to dehydration, and proper hydration allows you to accurately assess whether or not you’re at risk for hypoxemia or hypoxia.
Oxygen therapy is the first major line of defense in treating hypoxia or hypoxemia, and having a portable oxygen concentrator immediately available can be the difference between life and death.
It is critical to plan ahead and prepare for anything when you head to the mountains. Summit Oxygen Inc. is one of the nation’s top medical oxygen suppliers and offers oxygen equipment rentals and sales to help you prepare for anything.
We’re your friends in the mountains, so call us today!