Hypoxia in English

Medical Words

Hypoxia is a lack of oxygen in the arterial blood. More generally, medicine also refers to a low oxygen concentration in tissue. Hypoxia usually occurs as a result of other diseases.

What is hypoxia?

Characteristic symptoms of hypoxia are changes in breathing, rapid heart rate and/or chest pain. Mental symptoms such as unreasonable euphoria, perceived lightness or delirium may also indicate hypoxia.

According to abbreviationfinder, hypoxia describes the lack of oxygen in the arterial blood. In the lungs, the oxygen is absorbed from the air we breathe and transferred to fine blood vessels, so-called capillaries. From there, the heartbeat and pulse pump the oxygen particles in the larger arteries through the body. In this way, oxygen-rich blood reaches organs and tissues, which absorb the oxygen. Within the tissue, capillaries again distribute the oxygen; this eventually penetrates to the individual cells that need it for their metabolism.

cellswho do not have enough oxygen die. The term hypoxia is also used more generally to describe a lack of oxygen in certain parts of the body. In this case, despite sufficient oxygen in the blood, there is too little oxygen in the tissues, which causes reduced tissue respiration.

Tissue respiration refers to themedicinethe exchange of oxygen and other respiratory gases within a cluster of cells, at the end of which they release carbon dioxide. The cells then excrete this metabolite; the capillaries absorb the carbon dioxide and transport it back to the lungs via the bloodstream. There it is released back into the surrounding air through exhalation.


Various underlying diseases can be considered for the development of hypoxia. A potential basis of hypoxia is anemia. This is a lack of red blood cells. The body transports oxygen molecules via the red blood cells. A lack of them accordingly leads to insufficient means of transport for the oxygen. Although the breathing air contains enough oxygen in this case, the organism cannot absorb enough oxygen in its lungs due to the anemia: hypoxia is the result.

If, on the other hand, breathing disorders cause hypoxia, medicine calls this respiratory hypoxia. Circulatory hypoxemia may also lead to hypoxia. In medicine, circulatory hypoxemia is defined as a basic lack of oxygen in the blood, which does not have to be limited to the arterial blood. A value of 200 ml of oxygen per liter of blood is considered normal. A significantly decreased concentration of oxygen of 12 percent or more falls within the definition of hypoxemia.

Histotoxic or cystotoxic hypoxia describes a lack of oxygen in the tissues caused by a blockage in cellular respiration. The lack of enzymes and vitamins can also trigger a lack of oxygen in the tissue. Physiological shock states, which cause circulatory problems, represent another potential cause; here the medicine speaks of circulatory hypoxia. In addition, smoke inhalation or near-drowning causes the medical condition.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Characteristic symptoms of hypoxia are changes in breathing, rapid heart rate and/or chest pain. Mental symptoms such as unreasonable euphoria, perceived lightness or delirium may also indicate hypoxia. In addition, hypoxia may cause dizziness, weakness and general malaise.

If the body tissue is undersupplied with oxygen for a longer period of time, the circulatory system can be weakened and even lead to unconsciousness. In this case, difficulties in perception, subjective perception of turning, tremors, feelings of heat and cold, and sweating provide signs of a critical condition. Even nausea without actual symptoms of the gastrointestinal tract may appear.

Basically, the symptoms of hypoxia manifest themselves in a variety of forms; the typical symptoms that occur as part of hypoxia are non-specific symptoms that can also occur in numerous other diseases. For this reason, the presence of the above signs is not a sufficient criterion to infer hypoxia; Only a medical examination can lead to a correct diagnosis in the individual case and enable targeted treatment.

Diagnosis & course of disease

If hypoxia is suspected, a special test can bring clarity. Patients inhale a mixture of respiratory gases in a controlled manner. The exact composition of the gas mixture will vary depending on which of the various hypoxia tests the treating professionals select. A subsequent measurement of the oxygen concentration in the blood provides information about whether hypoxia is present.


The lack of oxygen in the blood can lead to various symptoms and complications, which in the worst case can be life-threatening for the patient. There is a general feeling of illness and severe dizziness. Furthermore, the patient also suffers from vomiting and nausea and from a greatly reduced resilience.

As a result, everyday life is significantly restricted. As the disease progresses, this can lead to unconsciousness, which can injure the patient. Pain in the extremities also occurs and the affected person can suffer from sleeping problems, which lead to general irritability. In many cases, hypoxia cannot be diagnosed immediately because the symptoms are not characteristic of this condition.

If a certain region of the body is completely undersupplied with oxygen, in the worst case this region can die or suffer permanent damage. The treatment is therefore always acute and aims to supply oxygen to the undersupplied tissue. There are no complications from the treatment itself. However, consequential damage can occur, which often leads to the death of the patient.

When should you go to the doctor?

If changes in breathing, chest pain, and increased blood pressure are noted, hypoxia may be the underlying cause. A doctor should be consulted if symptoms persist for more than two to three days or rapidly increase in intensity. If symptoms such as dizziness, malaise or general physical weakness are noticed, a doctor must also be consulted. Medical advice is required at the latest when feelings of heat or cold, sweating or dizziness become noticeable that cannot be attributed to any other cause.

Patients who suddenly feel nauseous or feel unwell for a long period of time are best advised to speak to a doctor. People suffering from anemia are particularly at risk. Disorders of breathing or the circulatory system can also lead to the development of hypoxia. People who belong to these risk groups should inform their family doctor about the symptoms mentioned. He can carry out the necessary examinations and clarify and treat hypoxia before serious complications arise.

Treatment & Therapy

As hypoxia progresses, there may be a complete lack of oxygen in a particular tissue or part of the body. Doctors refer to this condition as anoxia. The transition between hypoxia and anoxia is fluid. Severe lack of oxygen, especially over long periods of time, potentially leads to damage to the organs – the brain is particularly affected. In this case, medicine speaks of cerebral hypoxia.

The treatment of hypoxia depends largely on the individual causes; If there is an underlying disease, the focus is on treating the underlying disease. For this reason, there is no generally applicable standard. Under certain circumstances, physicians supply additional oxygen via the breathing air or directly to an undersupplied tissue for treatment.


Preventive measures for hypoxia play a role when there is a disease that can typically lead to hypoxia. Basically, the treatment of the underlying disease is in the foreground for the prevention as well as for the therapy of hypoxia. In order to avoid hypoxia, especially in children, it is important to prevent mechanical influences from interrupting the air supply and thereby possibly leading to subsequent hypoxia.


Follow-up care for hypoxia is similar to preventive care. These are used when the affected person suffers from a disease that is a trigger for hypoxia. It is therefore primarily about treating the causative disease. In order to minimize the risk in children, parents should ensure that breathing is not restricted by mechanical influences. Small objects pose a great danger here.

It is also important for children and adult patients to observe breathing and to pay attention to certain body signals. High blood pressure, chest pain or similar symptoms are typical signs. If such problems occur in an intensive form or for a longer period of time, a doctor should be consulted. In the course of follow-up, those at risk should pay particular attention to dizziness or discomfort.

A good self-assessment is very helpful here. A sudden panic can increase the dizziness or sweating, but are also among the typical signals. People with anemia should be extra alert and watch their breathing. Otherwise there is a risk of dizzy spells. A healthy cardiovascular system, on the other hand, is less susceptible. Doctors therefore often recommend consistent training and a balanced diet to those affected.

You can do that yourself

Since hypoxia usually occurs as a result of other diseases, the underlying disease should always be treated in the foreground.

However, hypoxia in young children can be easily avoided by placing dangerous objects out of reach. This is especially true for plastic bags or small objects that children can easily choke on. Children should also be supervised around water at all times to avoid accidents and consequent hypoxia. In the event of an acute emergency, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation must be carried out immediately. This also applies if the person concerned has already lost consciousness. A stable lateral position must also be ensured. In emergencies, the emergency doctor must also be calledto be informed. The earlier the emergency doctor arrives, the higher the probability of a mild course of the disease without complications.

A healthy lifestyle also has a positive effect on the disease. Above all, smoking should be avoided. Direct treatment of the underlying disease can usually only be carried out by a doctor. It cannot be predicted whether this will lead to complete healing.