Hypoxia Essay

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Altitude illnesses are usually caused by ascending to high to fast. What occurs in the body is that as you go higher in altitude the oxygen molecules remain the same but the barometric pressure decreases. This reduced pressure does not allow as much air into your lungs, which can therefore not absorb as much oxygen as the body needs. (Curtis, 1999). Hypoxia refers to a state in which oxygen supply is insufficient and hypoxemia is specific to low arterial oxygen supply (West, 1977). The figure to the following page shows the pathophysiology or the functional changes that accompany AMS and HACE (Basnyat & Murdoch, 2003).  For the body to properly oxygenate, breathing rate has to increase but not to the levels necessarily that you find at sea level so the body has to adjust to having less oxygen. A number of changes take place in the body that help it to adjust to decreased oxygen: depth of respiration increases, pressure in pulmonary arteries is increased, pushing blood into portions of the lung not normally used and the body will produce more red cells to carry oxygen. In addition, there is a particular enzyme that gets produced which facilitates the release of oxygen from hemoglobin to the body tissues. (Curtis, 2013). Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) AMS occurs in 10-15% of unacclimatized individuals ascending to 8,000 feet and 50 to 85% ascending to heights of 14,000 to 18,000 feet (Honigman, Theis,Koziol-McLeain, 1993). Symptoms of AMS include headache, nausea, fatigue, vomiting, shortness of breath, dizziness, loss of appetite and sleep disturbance (Basnyat & Murdoch, 2003). Even if one doesn’t feel the effects during the day, they may have trouble sleeping at night, awake frequently, feel restlessness and experien... ... middle of paper ... ...nti-inflammatory drugs such as the acetazolamide mentioned above should also help for treatment. If symptoms are severe, immediately descend and get oxygen. If experiencing symptoms of HACE, descend immediately to lower altitudes, get oxygen with the medication dexamethasone. In cases of HAPE, again descend, get oxygen and nifedipine also helps with treatment as well as prevention (Basnyat & Murdoch, 2003). Lastly, most reputable high altitude travel companies carry along a Gamow Bag while on expedition. It is basically a sealed chamber that is pumped up full of air that increases the increases the concentration of oxygen molecules. A person is put inside and within a short period of time it stimulates an atmosphere of 3,000-4,000 feet. The effects of the bag can last up to 12 hours, giving a person time to walk down to lower elevations. (Curtis, 2013).

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