what does a low oxygen saturation level mean

Low Oxygen Terms Defined:

Hypoxemia is a below-normal level of oxygen in your blood, specifically in the arteries. Hypoxemia is a sign of a problem related to breathing or circulation, and may result in various symptoms, such as shortness of breath. Hypoxemia is determined by measuring the oxygen level in a blood sample taken from an artery (arterial blood gas). Low blood oxygen, known as hypoxemia, means that the level of oxygen in the blood has dropped below average, normal levels, due to one or more of many different causes. Under most circumstances, breathing room air, normal readings range from 95 to percent.

Hypoxemia is a below-normal level of oxygen in your blood, what does has a green thumb mean in the arteries. Hypoxemia is a sign of a problem related to breathing or circulation, and may result in various symptoms, such as shortness of breath.

Hypoxemia is determined by measuring the oxygen level in a blood sample taken from an artery arterial blood gas. It can also be estimated by measuring the oxygen saturation of your blood mexn a pulse oximeter — ,ean small device that clips to your finger.

Normal arterial oxygen is approximately 75 to millimeters of saturatioon mm Hg. Values under 60 mm Hg usually indicate the need for supplemental oxygen.

Normal pulse oximeter readings usually range from pevel to percent. Values under 90 percent are considered low. Mayo Clinic does not endorse companies or products. Advertising revenue supports our not-for-profit mission. Any use of this site constitutes your agreement to the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy linked below. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only.

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Wilkinson JM expert opinion. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Rochester, Minn. Broaddus VC, et al. Acute hypoxemic respiratory failure and ARDS. Philadelphia, Pa. Vincent JL, ,evel al. Lwvel hypoxemia. In: Textbook of Critical Care. Strohl KP. Overview of obstructive sleep apnea in adults. Wilkins MR, et al.

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Mar 11,  · A blood oxygen level below 60 mm Hg is considered low and may require oxygen supplementation, depending on a doctor’s decision and the individual case. When blood oxygen level is too low compared. Sep 30,  · A problem with any of these factors — for example, high altitude, asthma or heart disease — might result in hypoxemia, particularly under more extreme conditions, such as exercise or illness. When your blood oxygen falls below a certain level, you might experience shortness of breath, headache, and confusion or restlessness. Jan 19,  · The word “hypoxia” literally means “lack of oxygen.” The term “hypoxemia” is more specific, meaning a lack of oxygen in the blood. Some doctors and medical publications generally apply the term “hypoxia” to refer to low blood oxygen levels.

The human body can survive without food for approximately three weeks and without water for about three days. How long can you survive without oxygen? Only about three minutes. These statistics demonstrate just how essential oxygen is to human life and just how serious the effects of oxygen depletion in the body can be. Many people in the United States live with chronically low oxygen levels in the blood. This condition is known as hypoxemia. There are a number of factors that can contribute to hypoxemia, and the condition may be acute as well as chronic.

The complications of hypoxemia are potentially serious, but it can also be treated. Some people may get confused about the difference between hypoxemia and hypoxia. Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they are separate but related conditions.

Body tissues receive oxygen from the blood, so when the circulatory system is unable to pump enough oxygenated blood around the body or if the oxygen level in the blood is insufficient, these tissues do not receive enough oxygen and hypoxia occurs. Therefore, hypoxia is secondary to that is, caused by hypoxemia, and prompt medical treatment for hypoxemia may prevent hypoxia from developing.

There are several methods used to test for low blood oxygen. If your doctor suspects that you have either hypoxemia or hypoxia, he or she may order pulmonary function tests. Many tests are included under this broad term, but they typically involve blowing air into a tube that is attached to a computer or other measuring device to discover how your lungs are functioning. However, if the concern is that you may have low levels of oxygen in your blood, your doctor may choose to test your blood directly.

There are typically two methods of doing this: a pulse oximetry test and a test of arterial blood gases. These tests may also be performed in addition to pulmonary function tests. Your doctor will often perform a pulse oximetry test first.

Pulse oximetry has many advantages over an arterial blood gas test. Pulse ox, as it is often known, is easy to administer and noninvasive. However, the trade-off is that it has a wider margin of error than an ABG. If your doctor suspects that your pulse ox results are not accurate, he or she may order ABG testing, which requires a sample of blood from the artery in your wrist, to confirm the pulse oximetry findings.

Pulse oximetry is measured in percentages: 95 to percent is considered normal for a healthy individual, and anything below 90 percent is abnormally low. ABG is measured in millimeters of mercury. A range of 80 to mmHg is considered normal for arterial blood gases in a healthy individual. There are essentially three basic factors that may cause your blood oxygen level to be low. A condition of the circulatory system may prevent your blood from reaching your body tissues.

Cardiovascular conditions that may contribute to hypoxemia include congenital heart defects, or problems with the tissue of your heart that are present at birth. A congenital heart defect may be diagnosed in childhood or go undetected until you are an adult. Another potential contributing cause is anemia, or lack of iron in the blood. Oxygen molecules in the blood are transported by iron, so a lack of this element means the blood cannot pick up and carry the oxygen that the body needs.

Even if the circulatory system is functioning properly, hypoxemia may result if the lungs themselves cannot take in enough oxygen. Lung conditions that may result in low blood oxygen include the following:.

Conditions that affect lung function may be acute, meaning they are severe and happen suddenly, or chronic, meaning they occur over time. Hypoxemia can also result from a lack of oxygen in the atmosphere. This often occurs at high altitudes and can also result when the air is polluted by smoke or other contaminants. This type of hypoxemia may be acute and is often transient, meaning it goes away when the quality of the air improves. Symptoms of hypoxemia can range in severity.

The following are troubling symptoms that do not require emergency care but should be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible:. The treatment you may receive for low blood oxygen depends in part on what is causing it and whether it is acute or chronic. The first treatment usually administered for hypoxemia is administration of oxygen to increase the levels and prevent hypoxia from setting in.

Depending on what is causing the hypoxemia, it may be possible to treat with medications as well. Another major step you can take to prevent hypoxemia is to quit smoking and avoid breathing in second-hand smoke.

Low blood oxygen levels can have multiple causes as well as treatments. See your doctor to discuss options and work out the best individual plan to address your condition.

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Two Similar Names, Two Different Conditions Some people may get confused about the difference between hypoxemia and hypoxia. Testing for Low Blood Oxygen There are several methods used to test for low blood oxygen. Causes and Symptoms of Low Blood Oxygen There are essentially three basic factors that may cause your blood oxygen level to be low. Lung conditions that may result in low blood oxygen include the following: Sleep apnea Asthma Blood clot in the lung pulmonary embolism Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease COPD Collapsed lung pneumothorax Emphysema Pneumonia Interstitial lung disease Conditions that affect lung function may be acute, meaning they are severe and happen suddenly, or chronic, meaning they occur over time.

The following are troubling symptoms that do not require emergency care but should be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible: Symptoms of sleep apnea waking up short of breath or choking Shortness of breath at rest or after slight exertion Shortness of breath that is worse with exercise The following symptoms require emergency care: A blue tinge to the skin or fingernails cyanosis Severe, acute shortness of breath that prevents functioning At high altitudes, shortness of breath accompanied by rapid heartbeat, cough, and retention of fluid Treatment for Low Blood Oxygen The treatment you may receive for low blood oxygen depends in part on what is causing it and whether it is acute or chronic.

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