It is an acute form of hypoxia or low oxygen level in the bloodstream that is marked by a complete lack of oxygen supply to various parts of the body, either entirely or to a localized tissue or organ. Newborns and older people at risk of getting strokes or heart attacks are likelier to suffer from this condition than adolescents or healthy adults.
This condition is categorized into various types. Some of the main types of Anoxia are:
Also referred to as Brain Anoxia, it is characterized by a lack of oxygen supply to the brain. It less severe cases, it can cause hallucinations and sensory distortions. More severe cases may lead to irreversible brain damage and even result in near-death experiences.
It is characterized by lack of oxygen in body tissues. It arises due to reduced capacity of the blood to transport oxygen to various parts of the body.
Like Anemic Anoxia, this type is also marked by reduced oxygen in body tissues. However, decreased level of oxygen is usually a result of disturbance in its supply all through the human body.
The condition arises from reduced ability of the cells to utilize oxygen that is already available in the body.
This form is seen to develop as a result of hindrance with the flow of blood as well as its transportation of oxygen.
Also known as “Acute Mountain Sickness”, it typically affects people who are over 2,400 meters or 8,000 feet. Such individuals include mountain climbers, skiers, hikers or tourists at high altitude. The condition arises due to a combination of lower oxygen levels and decreased air pressure at high altitudes. It causes light-headedness, difficulties in sleeping, nausea, vomiting, rapid pulse (heart rate) and shortness of breath.
Anoxia Vs Hypoxia
The terms Anoxia and Hypoxia are often substituted for one another. However, both are different conditions. Anoxia means an absence of oxygen supply to the tissues of an organ in spite of enough blood flowing to the region. Hypoxia stands for a reduced amount of oxygen in the body despite adequate flow of blood to the tissue.
Various factors can act as causes of Anoxia. These include:
- Lack of enough oxygen in the atmosphere (such as at high altitudes)
- Inability of the blood to transport oxygen to organs and tissues
- Lack of ability of the heart to pump and disperse the oxygenated blood in an adequate manner
- Respiratory failure that keeps the blood from loading oxygen in the lungs
The condition may also arise due to an intake of poison, a serious injury or faulty administering of some anesthetic.
The symptoms of Anoxia are serious in nature and begin to arise within a few minutes. Milder signs can be an indication of a hypoxic event. These may give rise to anoxia and should immediately be cured in an emergency environment.
Anoxia generally begins with milder symptoms that include:
- Bluish coloration of the fingernails or lips
- Stiff neck
- Tingling sensations
- Momentary loss of consciousness
- Poor ability in making decisions
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid breathing (Tachypnea)
In later stages, most symptoms of this condition turn severe.
Anoxia Brain Injury
It is an acute disorder resulting from a lack of oxygen supply to the brain. Anoxic brain injury affects thousands of lives every year. Any type of Anoxia that affects organs or tissues in the body is seen as serious. Cerebral Anoxia, however, is particularly threatening due to involvement of the brain cells. A deprivation of oxygen supply to the brain can make the cells die within a few minutes. This can immediately lead to loss of consciousness and even coma.
Treatment for Anoxia generally involves restoring the supply of oxygen. This can either be done through respiratory assistance or increasing the amount of oxygen intake by using equipments like an oxygen mask. Other curative options include:
- Use of life support systems
- Use of medications to lower seizures
- Use of medication and fluids to increase blood pressure
- Use of drugs to regulate heart function
The outcome, in cases of mild anoxic brain injury, is found to be better than in severe conditions. However, patients may require months or years to recover completely. Recovery is generally complete or nearly complete in case of individuals suffering from moderate anoxic brain injury. Such patients are able to live in a relatively normal manner, free of discomforting symptoms.
In severe cases, prognosis is generally found to be very poor. Recovery is extremely difficult in severe conditions and depends on factors like
- The intensity of anoxic brain injury
- The duration of unconsciousness or coma
- The restoration of normal function within the first month of the problem
Individuals suffering from severe types of Anoxic brain injury may remain in a vegetative state or coma. The chance of recovery is usually minimal in such cases.
Anoxia is an acute and potentially dangerous condition that may even cause death of sufferers. Call 911 and seek immediate medical care if anyone close to you is exhibiting acute symptoms like:
- Shortness of breath
- Labored breathing
- Dilated pupils
- Difficulties in breathing
Early medical assistance can help minimize the risk of life-threatening complications in future, such as cardiac arrest and coma. It may also prevent other problems, like
- Vegetative state
- Neurological problems (such as encephalitis, confusion and memory loss)
Anoxia is a potentially serious condition and is often found to be a result of some severe underlying condition. Naturally, it should be treated at the earliest. Once medical attention is sought, it is important for the patient to follow the treatment plan that the health care professional might have specifically designed for him or her. A proper treatment and follow-up can go a long way to ensure better health of an Anoxia patient.