Hypoxia

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What is Hypoxia?

Hypoxia is a medical condition in which a region in the body is deprived of sufficient oxygen supply at the tissue level. It is a condition characterized by the absence of sufficient oxygen levels in the tissue affecting normal bodily functions. Hypoxia can be generalized in which the whole body is affected or local in which a region or a part of the body is affected. It is different from hypoxemia, a condition characterized by the blood which is deprived of oxygen. Hypoxia indicates tissues deprived of sufficient oxygen supply. Hypoxia may prove to be fatal if it turns into Anoxia, which is extreme hypoxia, which indicates a complete absence of oxygen in the tissues.

Hypoxia can be fatal and affect vital organs like the brain, heart, etc. Generally, its symptoms occur a few minutes after the deficiency in oxygen supply and the effects may be irreversible. Hypoxia may affect healthy individuals under certain circumstances. Different types of physical conditions give rise to different types of Hypoxia, which we will now study in detail.


Types of Hypoxia

Hypoxic Hypoxia

Hypoxic Hypoxia occurs when the atmospheric oxygen decreases. In high altitude, during drowning, or under certain conditions, when airways get choked and deprived of oxygen, and there’s an inadequate supply of oxygen to the lungs it results in this condition.


Anemic Hypoxia

This condition indicates blood's decreased ability to carry oxygen. It also implies a lesser number of hemoglobin molecules available for the binding of oxygen. Anemic Hypoxia can be a result of hemoglobin disorders like sickle cell anemia.


Stagnant Hypoxia

Blood contains hemoglobin which is an oxygen-binding molecule. Less blood supply naturally suggests less hemoglobin and less binding sites for oxygen. Thus, stagnant hypoxia is a condition in which blood flow becomes abnormally low in a state of shock or syncope or other states. Abnormally less flow of blood leads to oxygen starvation and stagnant hypoxia.


Histotoxic Hypoxia

In this case, cells or tissue in the body become inefficient to use up the oxygen carried by the bloodstream, despite normal oxygen supply and delivery of oxygen to such cells and tissues. It majorly occurs under the circumstances of poisoning.


Metabolic Hypoxia

Under conditions of stress or high metabolic activity, cells and tissues require more oxygen. Although this demand is fulfilled by the body in most cases, when the oxygen demand exceeds the oxygen supply, it results in metabolic hypoxia.


Causes of Hypoxia

Hypoxia is a condition that may occur due to various causes. Some of the common causes of hypoxia are listed below-

  • Asthma attacks leading to narrowing of the airways.

  • Collapsed lungs, fluid in the lungs, blood clot in an artery in the lungs, or scarred and damaged lungs.

  • Extremely distressing situations leading to a heart attack or lung damage causing hypoxia.

  • Lung related disorders like bronchitis, pulmonary edema leading to Hypoxia.

  • Heart ailments.

  • Conditions like anemia, sickle cell anemia, etc.

  • Environmental factors like low oxygen levels in high altitudes.

  • Accidents leading to brain injury and brain hemorrhage.

  • The inability of the tissues to absorb the oxygen supplied.

  • Carbon dioxide build-up due to being enclosed in closed spaces.

  • Inhalation of inert gases that lead to the sudden and severe onset of hypoxia.

  • Insufficient supply of oxygen-rich blood to the brain that impairs mental acuity, and results in brain damage and disorders.

  • Genetic disorders.

  • Congenital heart diseases.


Signs of Hypoxia

Common symptoms of hypoxia are as follows-

  • Headache

  • Shortening of breath called dyspnea

  • Syncope

  • Sluggishness

  • Ambivalence in decision making

  • Increased heart rate or breathing rate or both

  • Anxiety

  • Impaired motor coordination

  • Cyanosis

  • Impaired vision


How to Treat Hypoxia

Though the medical treatment of hypoxia involves the cause, type, and severity of hypoxia, the goal is to increase the oxygen supply. When common symptoms of hypoxia occur, which includes shortness of breath, oxygen therapy is provided to the patient. The patient is also given a mechanical ventilator under severe conditions. An increased supply of oxygen is provided to the body tissue by keeping the pressure in check. This greatly improves the condition of the patient who has suffered or is suffering from hypoxia. A few cases also involve supplying liquid oxygen to the body of the patient. Medications are also prescribed by doctors to treat some conditions of hypoxia.

Some of the passive measures include avoiding environmental or physical factors that trigger hypoxia. This means avoiding smoking, adopting a healthy diet, exercising regularly, performing yoga and breathing exercises, etc.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is Hypoxia?

Hypoxia is a medical condition in which a region in the body is deprived of sufficient oxygen supply at the tissue level. It is a condition characterized by the absence of sufficient oxygen levels in the tissue affecting normal bodily functions. Hypoxia can be generalized in which the whole body is affected or local in which a region or a part of the body is affected. It is different from hypoxemia, a condition characterized by the blood which is deprived of oxygen. Hypoxia indicates tissues deprived of sufficient oxygen supply. Hypoxia may prove to be fatal if it turns into Anoxia, which is extreme hypoxia, which indicates the complete absence of oxygen in the tissues.

2. What are the Four Types of Hypoxia?

Types of Hypoxia


Hypoxic Hypoxia- Hypoxic Hypoxia occurs when the atmospheric oxygen decreases. In high altitude, during drowning, or under certain conditions, when airways get choked and deprived of oxygen, and there’s an inadequate supply of oxygen to the lungs it results in this condition.

Anemic Hypoxia- This condition indicates blood's decreased ability to carry oxygen. It also implies a lesser number of hemoglobin molecules available for the binding of oxygen. Anemic Hypoxia can be a result of hemoglobin disorders like sickle cell anemia.

Stagnant Hypoxia- Blood contains hemoglobin which is an oxygen-binding molecule. Less blood supply naturally suggests less hemoglobin and less binding sites for oxygen. Thus, stagnant hypoxia is a condition in which blood flow becomes abnormally low in a state of shock or syncope or other states. Abnormally less flow of blood leads to oxygen starvation and stagnant hypoxia.

Histotoxic Hypoxia- In this case, cells or tissue in the body become inefficient to use up the oxygen carried by the bloodstream, despite normal oxygen supply and delivery of oxygen to such cells and tissues. It majorly occurs under the circumstances of poisoning.

3. What are the Causes of Hypoxia?

Hypoxia is a condition that may occur due to various causes. Some of the common causes of hypoxia are Lung related disorders like bronchitis, pulmonary edema leading to Hypoxia, Heart ailments, Conditions like anemia, sickle cell anemia, etc. Environmental factors like low oxygen levels in high altitudes, Accidents leading to brain injury and brain hemorrhage, Inability of the tissues to absorb the oxygen supplied, Carbon dioxide build-up due to being enclosed in closed spaces, Inhalation of inert gases that lead to the sudden and severe onset of hypoxia, Insufficient supply of oxygen-rich blood to the brain that impairs mental acuity, and results into brain damage and disorders.