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Blood Oxygen Levels

Blood Oxygen Levels

Oxygen levels in the blood are tested to examine several functions of the human body. A dip in blood oxygen levels, is an indication of an underlying disorder. This article explains what these fluctuations mean, and also defines normal blood oxygen levels.
Dr. Sumaiya Khan
Last Updated: Feb 8, 2018
Oxygen is a basic requirement for sustenance of life. The normal blood oxygen levels are a measurement of the saturation of oxygen in the blood. The red blood cells contain a molecule known as hemoglobin that binds to the atmospheric oxygen, and carries it to different parts of the body. When there is any kind of variation in the levels of oxygen in the blood, it can lead to health complications. Given below are details pertaining to normal levels of oxygen in the blood, and what the variations signify.
What Are Normal Levels of Oxygen in Blood?
  • In most cases, an oxygen level that hovers around 95 to 100% is considered healthy.
  • Any reading below 90% is a cause of concern, which needs to be investigated by a doctor.

Levels of oxygen in the body can be measured with the help of various methods. The most common way of determining whether oxygen saturation levels are healthy, is with the help of a blood test used to check the arterial blood gas. Another convenient way of checking the level of oxygen in the blood, is by using a pulse oximeter. This is a small device that measures the levels of oxygen in the blood by means of a light sensor.
Hypoxemia: Low Levels of Oxygen
Hypoxemia occurs when the oxygen level in the blood dips below 90%. When this happens, the person experiences immediate shortness of breath, as the body tries to elevate the level of oxygen in the body.
  • Anemia
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Emphysema
  • Pneumonia
  • Pneumothorax
  • Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Sleep apnea

If you frequently experience difficulty in breathing, especially after any minor physical activity, it is necessary to get yourself examined. Shortness of breath and choking while sleeping, are symptoms of sleep apnea, which also needs medical attention.
Precautionary Measures
  • Breathing problems are aggravated by smoking, so ensure that you cut down on it, if you have this habit.
  • Passive smoking is also known to cause shortness of breath in many.
  • Follow a lifestyle that involves healthy eating, coupled with exercise routines.
  • Learn breathing exercises to allow oxygen levels to remain normal.
Hyperoxia: High Levels of Oxygen
Hyperoxia is a condition characterized by very high levels of oxygen in the blood. This generally occurs as a result of breathing concentrated oxygen. Considered to be a serious condition, it can lead to cell death and damage, mostly in the central nervous system, eyes, and lungs.
People who are susceptible to this condition include scuba divers, as they are exposed to high atmospheric pressure, those sent on human space missions, and those who are undergoing hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
Symptoms of hyperoxia include disorientation, breathing problems, and disturbed vision. In cases where oxygen intoxication is very high, there could be oxidative damage to the cells, deflation of alveoli in the lungs, retinal detachment, and seizures. This kind of toxicity can be managed by reducing exposure to elevated levels of oxygen.
To prevent the occurrence of the symptoms, those having to breathe concentrated levels of oxygen are made to undergo rigorous training regarding the use of oxygen cylinders/spacesuits under varying atmospheric pressures.
Oxygen saturation levels are an important parameter used for checking the presence of any lung disease or abnormalities in the level of hemoglobin in the blood. It is important to ensure that oxygen levels in the blood fall within the ideal range, as any kind of deprivation of oxygen to the body, even for a small time span, can lead to irreversible damage to body's organs.