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Anoxia and hypoxia are related conditions that are the result of the blood not carrying enough oxygen to support the brain and organs. While hypoxia describes a low level of oxygen in the blood, anoxia is complete lack of oxygen. Both conditions are most often the result of a heart attack.
Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, anoxia and hypoxia are two different, yet related conditions. A person suffering from hypoxia has a diminished amount of oxygen in his blood, even though his blood flow is normal or adequate. Anoxia occurs when no oxygen is present in the blood at all.
A number of conditions can result in these problems, including smoke inhalation or carbon monoxide poisoning, which prevents the blood’s absorption of oxygen. Spending time at high altitudes where there are low levels of oxygen in the air can also reduce the amount of oxygen available in the blood. Strangulation or poisoning can also result low blood oxygen. Most commonly, however, they are the result of a heart attack, cardiac arrhythmia, or stroke.
Both anoxia and hypoxia can be extremely dangerous. Depending on the severity of hypoxia, an individual may fully recover if oxygen levels remain high enough, or he may experience brain damage, other tissue damage, or death if oxygen levels in the body are too low. An individual experiencing anoxia is always at high risk, since he has no oxygen in his bloodstream and must receive immediate care.
If a person is suffering from either anoxia or hypoxia, he should receive emergency care. Oxygen should be immediately administered to the patient in order to saturate the blood with oxygen and increase oxygen distribution to the brain and other organs. In the most severe cases, patients may need assistance breathing.
When an individual recovers from anoxia and hypoxia, he may experience certain long or short term side effects related to the brain’s lack of oxygen. These effects may also vary depending on which areas of the brain were most affected. Memory loss, either long term or temporary, is not uncommon, as is confusion or hallucinations. Changes in sight, motor skills, and cognitive skills may also occur.
An individual who recovers from the initial unconsciousness or coma produced by low blood oxygen will most likely have to go through rehabilitation to recover from the brain damage that occurred. This may include speech therapy, cognitive therapy, physical therapy, or all three, depending on the areas of the brain affected.