Hypoxemia is defined as a low level of oxygen in the blood, particularly in the arteries. Hypoxemia is a symptom of a breathing or circulation problem, and it can cause a range of symptoms, including shortness of breath.
The oxygen level in a blood sample taken from an artery is used to determine hypoxemia (arterial blood gas). It can also be calculated using a pulse oximeter, which is a small device that clips to your finger and measures the oxygen saturation of your blood.
Causes of Hypoxemia
Some of the most common causes include:
- ARDS (Acute respiratory distress syndrome)
- Congenital heart disease in adults
- Medications, such as certain narcotics and anesthetics, that depress breathing
- Sleep apnea
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) exacerbation — worsening of symptoms
- Pulmonary embolism (blood clot in an artery in the lung)
- Pulmonary edema (excess fluid in the lungs)
- Pulmonary fibrosis (scarred and damaged lungs)
- Congenital heart defects in children
- Pneumothorax (collapsed lung)
- Interstitial lung disease
Symptoms of Hypoxemia
When To See The Doctor
If you have symptoms of low blood oxygen, see your doctor right away. Early detection and treatment can help prevent the condition from worsening and leading to complications.
Treatment of Hypoxemia
The goal of hypoxemia treatment is to increase the amount of oxygen in the blood. Medications can be used to treat underlying disorders that lead to hypoxemia. These treatments are frequently administered using an inhaler, which allows you to breathe the medicine directly into your lungs.
Your doctor may recommend oxygen therapy in more serious cases. A cannula (tube) that is fastened to the outside of the nose or a breathing mask is the most common way for people to get supplemental oxygen. Individual needs determine where people receive oxygen treatment and how long they receive it. You can get oxygen at home, on the go with a portable unit, or in the hospital.