Hypoxia is a condition in which the body does not receive enough oxygen. It can occur as the result of long exposure to areas that are high above sea level, such as mountainous regions. Oxygen deprivation can also be caused by a variety of conditions including improperly administered anesthesia, heart attack, pneumonia, suffocation, or exposure to carbon monoxide. If symptoms of hypoxia are not recognized promptly and the tissues and organs of the body do not receive enough oxygen, it can cause serious complications like serious brain damage, which usually leads to a permanent vegetative state or death.
When the condition first begins to develop, it can produce some indicating signs that may not seem significant enough for a person to take seriously. Mild hypoxia symptoms may include slight difficulty performing tasks that require coordination, trouble focusing, and bad judgment. A person may also experience nausea, headache, difficulty breathing, and even unexplained feelings of euphoria or ecstasy. These can be dangerous warning signs that the brain is not receiving enough oxygen to perform optimally. Other less serious conditions, such as fatigue or hunger, can also cause these symptoms, so a person may not realize that there is any danger.
As the body becomes more cut off from its supply of oxygen, hypoxia symptoms may become much more apparent. The skin may become discolored and take on a blue hue. A person may experience blurred vision or seizures and eventually not be able to breathe on his or her own. He or she may slip into a coma. If a person with the condition is not hooked up to a machine that provides him or her with oxygen, advanced hypoxia can cause immediate death.
When hypoxia symptoms are present, a person will require immediate medical treatment to prevent irreversible brain damage or death. Doctors will typically immediately hook a patient up to an oxygen machine to ventilate the body manually, since he or she cannot breathe without assistance. A patient may also have to be treated with defibrillation, a treatment in which electric shocks are administered to the heart when it slows down to ensure it beats properly. If a person’s hypoxia symptoms are treated shortly after occurring, it is more likely that he or she will wake up from his or her coma with little brain damage. The longer a person was not breathing, the less likely it is that he or she will ever be able to recover and survive the condition.