by Amy Scholten, MPH
Hypoxemia is a low level of oxygen in the blood. It lowers the amount of oxygen that reaches organs like the heart, kidney, and brain. It can be mild or severe. When severe it can affect heart and brain function.
Hypoxemia may be caused by:
Things that raise the risk of hypoxemia are:
Symptoms of hypoxemia may be:
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. Some signs like blue-ish nails or skin may mean low oxygen levels.
Oxygen levels can be tested with:
Breathing tests may also be done to check how well the lungs work.
The goal is to raise oxygen levels in the blood. Some may need emergency care right away. Others may need a change in their care plan.
The main treatment will be oxygen therapy. Oxygen may be given through a mask or a tube just under the nose. Oxygen may be needed:
Not all hypoxemia can be prevented. Some people are at risk due to certain conditions. They may reduce their risk by following their care plan.
American Lung Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
College of Family Physicians of Canada
Hypoxemia—approach to the patient. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/approach-to/hypoxemia-approach-to-the-patient. Accessed August 5, 2021.
Hypoxemia. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17727-hypoxemia. Accessed August 5, 2021.
Luks AM, Swenson ER, et al. Acute high-altitude sickness. Eur Respir Rev. 2017;26(143):160096.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Dan Ostrovsky, MD
Last Updated: 8/5/2021
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