Several factors are needed to continuously supply the cells and tissues in your body with oxygen:
- There must be enough oxygen in the air you are breathing
- Your lungs must be able to inhale the oxygen-containing air — and exhale carbon dioxide
- Your bloodstream must be able to circulate blood to your lungs, take up the oxygen and carry it throughout your body
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.
Common causes of hypoxemia include:
- ARDS (Acute respiratory distress syndrome)
- Congenital heart defects in children
- Congenital heart disease in adults
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Interstitial lung disease
- Medications, such as certain narcotics and anesthetics, that depress breathing
- Pneumothorax (collapsed lung)
- Pulmonary edema (excess fluid in the lungs)
- Pulmonary embolism (blood clot in an artery in the lung)
- Pulmonary fibrosis (scarred and damaged lungs)
- Sleep apnea
Jan. 11, 2018
Causes shown here are commonly associated with this symptom. Work with your doctor or other health care professional for an accurate diagnosis.
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