Let’s Talk About Blood Oxygen Levels
The lungs are not the only parts of our body that utilizes oxygen to function. In fact, our entire body itself functions because of oxygen, which is transported by the blood throughout each and every organ. This is why there is a need to keep blood oxygen levels, or blood oxygen saturation, at normal levels; otherwise, the body can suffer tremendous costs.
Monitoring blood oxygen levels
Blood oxygen saturation is a measure of how much oxygen is in our red blood cells. Most healthy children and adults may not need to frequently monitor their blood oxygen levels unless there are signs of a problem, such as chest pain or shortness of breath.
However, keeping tabs on your blood oxygen saturation is vital if you are suffering from chronic conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary fibrosis, emphysema, heart disease, and other chronic lung conditions. Monitoring your blood oxygen levels regularly may need to be a part of your daily routine.
Measuring blood oxygen saturation
There are two different tools you can use to measure your blood oxygen levels: through arterial blood gas (ABG) and through a pulse oximeter. Aside from measuring your oxygen saturation, an ABG test is a blood test that is also able to determine the level of your blood gases and blood pH. While it provides very accurate results, an ABG is invasive, as it requires drawing blood from an artery.
A noninvasive option for blood oxygen level measurement would be through a pulse oximeter. Pulse oximetry uses a device that draws an estimate of the oxygen levels in your blood by emitting infrared light into the capillaries in the finger, ear lobe, or toe.
Since it is a simple, noninvasive procedure, you can perform pulse oximetry by yourself at home. There are portable pulse ox devices that you can secure at stores and pharmacies with your doctor’s prescription. However, a more advanced Simed SpO2 apparatus may be used for blood oxygen measurement in hospitals and healthcare facilities.
What’s normal and what’s not
Normal blood oxygen levels usually range from 75 to 100 mmHg. Typically, a dangerously low blood oxygen level under 60 may already require the patient to receive supplemental oxygen. When the level of oxygen in your blood is below normal, you are likely to be experiencing hypoxemia, which may occur from an underlying problem related to your breathing or blood circulation.
In fact, there are several factors that could hinder the blood from getting the adequate amount of oxygen that it needs. This includes having certain diseases like anemia, congenital heart diseases, COPD, sleep apnea and many more. It could also be due to an intake of medications that depress breathing, such as anesthetics and narcotics.
Looking out for the signs
When your oxygen saturation level goes below normal, you may start to experience common signs and symptoms that include shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, headache, or confusion. If your low blood oxygen level is not properly and immediately addressed, cyanosis—or a bluish cast to the skin, nail beds, and mucus membranes—could ensue.
When cyanosis happens, seek for professional help right away. Without immediate intervention, cyanosis can result to respiratory failure and cause life-threatening results.
In case of low blood oxygen levels, your doctor may require to boost your oxygen saturation through supplemental oxygen. During such time, make sure to follow your doctor’s specific instructions to avoid any further complications. While most people do not need to regularly check on their blood oxygen levels, always religiously keep tabs on these parameters if you are suffering from health problems. Constant monitoring is key to prevention and early treatment.