The lack or insufficient supply of oxygen is linked with the development of hypoxia. Cells need oxygen to adequately or optimally function. Thus, when oxygen supply does not meet cellular demand, hypoxia can develop. The condition is also known as altitude sickness, since it generates some symptoms indicative of being at high altitudes during activities such as mountain climbing.
The connection between oxygen and hypoxia is split into two broad categories. In generalized hypoxia, the sickness affects the entire body. This is the type of hypoxia that commonly afflicts mountain climbers, who encounter lower oxygen concentration and reduced air pressure the higher they climb. Other causes include poor pulmonary ventilation or sleep apnea. Tissue hypoxia, on the other hand, is restricted to a certain area of the body.
In most cases, the blood flow is a determining factor of how strong the connection between oxygen and hypoxia is. For instance, stagnant hypoxia, or ischemic hypoxia, concerns the lack of oxygen due to the reduction of blood flow, while with hypoxic hypoxia, the blood flow is fine, but not enough oxygen is reaching it. With anemic hypoxia, hemoglobin deficiency or defects decreases the blood’s capability to carry oxygen. A few types of the condition do not involve the blood as a factor at all. For example, cerebral hypoxia merely denotes hypoxia characterized by lack of sufficient oxygen to the brain.
The most common result of the link between oxygen and hypoxia is shortness of breath. Other signs include appetite loss, dizziness, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, headache, nausea and vomiting. In the more severe cases, skin discoloration, cardiac arrest or arrhythmia, seizures, or low blood pressure may occur. There is also the possibility of anoxia. This is considered worse than hypoxia, since it denotes a complete decrease of oxygen.
The body usually responds defensively to hypoxia. Most tissues, when faced with this condition, rely on vasodilation, which means that the blood vessels widen to increase the body’s blood flow. Other areas of the body, particularly the lungs, react in the total opposite fashion with vasoconstriction. By narrowing the blood vessels, it prevents the occurrence of internal bleeding or blood loss.
A mechanical supply of oxygen is typically the best way to alter the link between oxygen and hypoxia. This can be accomplished by using oxygen concentrators. Hypoxia can also be prevented by avoiding high altitudes, as well as adhering to healthy eating habits and drinking a reasonable amount of fluids.