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Effects of Hypoxia on the body

The implication of Hypoxia 

Hypoxia is the result of impaired blood flow that can have an irreversible effect on the structure and function of vital organs. Hypoxia is a medical term for “low oxygen” within the body; however, it is defined as a deficiency in the amount of oxygen that reaches the body’s tissues. The reduction of oxygen in the body’s tissues can also medically be referred to as “Oxygen starvation.” If the tissues begin receiving no oxygen, the term is then medically referred to as anoxia.

Hypoxia can affect a specific organ within the body which is referred to as tissue hypoxia. Subsequently, it may affect the entire body, which will then be referred to as generalized hypoxia.

Hypoxia or Hypoxemia? 

A vast number of individuals will confuse the two terms; however, while the definition for hypoxia and Hypoxemia seems relatively the same, there is one significant difference.

Within the article, we will discuss the effect that hypoxia has on the body, which is defined as a deficiency in the amount of oxygen that reaches the body’s tissues. Hypoxemia is defined as an inadequate amount of oxygen that travels within the blood around the body.

Hypoxia = The amount of oxygen that reaches the body’s tissues.

Hypoxemia = The amount of oxygen that travels within the blood of the body.

Drug abuse and Hypoxia

Hypoxia can be caused by a multitude of reasons, such as traveling at high altitudes, drowning, or drug abuse. Hypoxia is a typical result of drug addiction. It will usually be characterized as a drug-induced respiratory depression; this is a type of breathing disorder characterized by ineffective breathing or shallow breathing.

Respiratory depresses, and subsequently, hypoxia will occur when opioids such as fentanyl target the central nervous system and areas of the breath that control the breathing, such as the brainstem. If respiratory depressions take hold of the individual, their temperature will decrease, heart rate will significantly raise, they will quickly lose consciousness and, after the four-minute mark, begin to suffer from brain cell death.

This specific situation is an exceptional case; however, drug addiction and hypoxia are more common than many people want to believe. The United States has been in an opioid epidemic since the late ’90s, which has resulted in billions of deaths nationwide. Drug addiction and the central nervous system are heavily linked with each other because of how the brain becomes addicted to the effects of the drugs. The euphoric feeling individuals go through results in the opioids latching onto individuals for a long duration, in many cases forever.

Drug abuse and Fentanyl

Individuals who abused such drugs as fentanyl are at significant risk of suffering from hypoxia; despite the severe risk at hand, many are still unable to leave their addiction in a past life. This is due to addiction being a chronic disease that will need professional care.

Even when opioids are prescribed to you by a medical professional, it is important to remain cautious and re-visit your doctor for regular visits. Brain damage caused by drug addiction can often be irreversible. Brain cells are susceptible to any drop in oxygen level and can even begin to die less than five minutes after the oxygen supply has been cut off. At Shoreline Sober Living, our sober living house managers work alongside clients, parents, spouses, and professionals to facilitate change necessary for lasting recovery.

The long-term effects of Hypoxia on the body  

Hypoxia is medically defined as a lack or reduced amount of oxygen to the body’s tissues. This can be caused by a shortage of oxygen within the air being breathed or by several physiological/pathological issues that affect blood circulation or the quality of oxygen carried by the hemoglobin in the blood.

Many known effects are associated with hypoxia; however, they can vary between individuals and be dependant on how long the symptoms have been present; this can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Euphoria
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Confusion
  • Failure or the inability to concentrate
  • Difficulties making decisions
  • Impaired psychomotor performance
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Tingling or warm sensation
  • Convulsions
  • Fast heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Changes in the color of your skin
  • Death

The brain, liver, and heart are the most vital organs that will be affected by hypoxia. Depending on the severity of the hypoxia, the damage to major organs can often be irreversible; this can happen within four minutes of severe symptoms beginning.

Effects of Hypoxia

If severe symptoms last longer than four-minute, the individual may become brain dead which can be defined as no measurable activity within the brain; however, the cardiovascular function is preserved. Life support will be required to function on behalf of the respiration system.

Effects of Acute Hypoxia

If the symptom of hypoxia is acute, the effects can often include impaired judgment and motor incoordination. It can be very worrying if an individual suffers from silent or acute hypoxia as the oxygen levels within the blood cells and tissue can drop without any warning to the individual or medical staff.

Chronic Hypoxia

Chronic hypoxia will often vary in symptoms depending on the individual. A reduction in work capacity, fatigue, delayed time reaction, and apathy can affect the body.

The types of Hypoxia

While the term hypoxia refers to the general lack of oxygen to specific areas of the body, four main types of hypoxia are distinguished within the medical field; the first is:

Hypoxemic/Arterial Hypoxia:

The body tissues do not have enough oxygen because there is a constant lack of oxygen within the blood flowing through the body’s tissue. A further cause can be inadequate breathing. This specific form commonly occurs when an individual is at a high altitude or within an enclosed breathing space.

Stagnant Hypoxia:

As the name of the hypoxia suggests, this type is due to inadequate blood flow around the body. This can often be a problem residing in the cardiovascular system.

Anemic Hypoxia:

Low hemoglobin levels will reduce the blood’s reduced ability to carry vital oxygen breathed in by the individual—the diminished supply of essential oxygen to the tissue. Hemoglobin is a specific protein within red blood cells that carries oxygen through the body. When the hemoglobin levels are reduced, the oxygen supply will be cut off.

Histotoxic/tissue hypoxia:

With this specific type of hypoxia, the individual has an adequate amount of oxygen pumping through the body. Still, the body’s tissues are unable to use the present oxygen due to it being defective. For example, cyanide exposure can seriously prevent the cells of the body from using oxygen. When this happens, the cells die, causing severe respiratory distress.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Hypoxia

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a condition that causes various changes in your lungs that can severely affect an individual’s breathing. Issues within your lungs can lead to your body not receiving enough oxygen or using oxygen efficiently. This can then further lead to hypoxia which can result in severe medical complications.

The smallest amount of damage caused by Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease can result in tiny air sacs remaining in your lungs, often referred to as alveoli, from getting a sufficient amount of oxygen. The medical definition for this is called alveolar hypoxia.

This specific type of hypoxia can begin a chain reaction that significantly reduces oxygen levels in your blood, hypoxemia. As a result, hypoxemia can cause further hypoxia complications in various other parts of the body when your blood isn’t carrying a sufficient amount of oxygen to your body’s tissues.

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