What are the possible complications of chronic hypoxemia?

Hypoxemia is a medical condition that occurs when the body cannot get enough oxygen. Chronic hypoxemia is when the body has long periods of low levels of oxygen in the arterial blood. The condition usually occurs when a person has anemia, a primary hemoglobin deficiency, or lung disease. Possible complications of chronic hypoxemia include pulmonary hypertension (increased blood pressure in the lungs), impaired brain function, heart attack, hypoxia, and secondary polycythemia.

High blood pressure in the lungs as a result of chronic hypoxemia is caused by low oxygen levels in the arterial blood, which can be caused by narrowing of the smaller blood vessels and preventing normal blood flow through them. . When the blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs, the pulmonary arteries, is higher than normal, the blood pressure in the right ventricle of the heart increases. This forces the heart to work harder to pump blood, which can lead to damage to heart tissue. Over time, chronic hypoxemia can continue to damage heart tissue until the damage is so great that the right side of the heart fails, leading to a heart attack.

Like other organs in the body, the brain requires a constant supply of oxygen to function properly. When the brain lacks oxygen during chronic hypoxia, it can cause a person to have poor judgment and loss of coordination. Loss of oxygen to the brain can also cause euphoria, or an intense feeling of happiness, euphoria, excitement, and well-being.

When the cells of the body lack oxygen due to chronic hypoxemia, it can cause hypoxia. Hypoxia is a general low level of oxygen in the blood that can affect the entire body, at which point it is called generalized hypoxia, or a region of the body, known as tissue hypoxia. It can cause headaches, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, and in extreme cases, loss of consciousness, coma, seizures, priapism, cyanosis, and death.

Secondary polycythemia is the name given when the bone marrow produces too many red blood cells in response to low oxygen levels in the blood. Low oxygen levels cause high production of erythropoietin (Epo), a type of enzyme produced by the kidneys and liver. The enzyme enters the red bone marrow and causes it to start making red blood cells in a process called erythropoiesis. Red blood cells carry oxygen in the blood, so more red blood cells are produced in the body's attempt to raise oxygen levels in the blood. Common symptoms of secondary polycythemia are dizziness, shortness of breath, physical fatigue or weakness, chronic cough, and sleep apnea.

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