Hypoxia is a medical condition that occurs when your body tissues aren’t oxygenated effectively. This is usually caused by an inadequate concentration of oxygen in your blood.
Yes, hypoxia can be deadly. It’s considered a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. There are several different types of hypoxia all of which can be life-threatening.
Hypoxic hypoxia is the most common type, and occurs when the partial pressure of oxygen in the arterial blood is lower than normal. Hypoxic hypoxia is the result of an insufficient saturation of oxygen in the blood caused by a decreased supply of oxygen in the air, reduced lung ventilation, or respiratory disease.
Two common environmental causes include:
- A high altitude, where the concentration of atmospheric oxygen is reduced.
- Deep sea diving if there’s an inadequate supply of oxygen in the breathing mask or if a rusting cylinder has extracted oxygen.
Anemic hypoxia occurs when your blood’s ability to carry oxygen is decreased and as a result abnormal levels of oxygen are circulated around your body.
Two common causes of anemic hypoxia include:
- Anemia where there’s a decreased amount of oxygenated haemoglobin
- Carbon monoxide poisoning where the receptors that normally carry oxygen are blocked by the chemical
Histotoxic hypoxia arises when oxygen is supplied to your tissues, but your tissues don’t utilize it adequately—this is because your cells are damaged and are unable to extract and absorb oxygen from circulating blood. This can be due to alcohol or drug abuse and cyanide poisoning.
Stagnant hypoxia occurs because of a decline in blood flow—which prevents normal blood supply to your tissues. Heart problems such as heart attack, cardiac arrest, or heart failure, slows the circulation of blood which limits oxygen supply to important tissues and organs.
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