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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.

What is hypoxia?

Hypoxia is a decreased level of oxygen in all or part of your body, such as your brain.

What causes hypoxia?

Some conditions can cause hypoxia to occur suddenly. Other conditions may cause hypoxia to occur over time. Hypoxia may be caused by any of the following:

  • Travel to a high altitude
  • Near drowning or choking
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Exposure to cold for a long period of time
  • Severe anemia
  • Chronic lung disease, such as emphysema
  • Congestive heart failure

What are the signs and symptoms of hypoxia?

  • Confusion or memory loss
  • Clumsiness
  • Drowsiness
  • Changes in behavior
  • Vision changes
  • Bluish-gray lips or nails
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting

How is hypoxia diagnosed?

  • A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood.
  • Blood tests may be done to measure blood gases, such as oxygen, acids, and carbon dioxide. Blood tests may also be used to find the cause of your hypoxia.

How is hypoxia treated?

Treatment depends on the cause of your hypoxia. Oxygen therapy will be used to help you breathe easier. You may also need medicines to treat the cause of your hypoxia. Mechanical ventilation and IV fluids may be used for more severe forms of hypoxia. A ventilator is a machine that gives you oxygen The ventilator breathes for you when you cannot breathe well on your own.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your muscles jerk.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have a seizure.
  • You faint.
  • You are irritable, confused, or unusually drowsy.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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