Hypoxia is a medical term covering a condition wherein the body, or at least a portion of the body, suffers from lack of oxygen. On the other hand, anoxia is a severe case of hypoxia that occurs when the body, or a portion of the body, is completely deprived of oxygen.
Causes of Hypoxia and Anoxia
Hypoxia occurs anytime the body suffers from diminished or decrease oxygen levels. The severity of the conditions widely varies, usually pending the original cause of the oxygen deprivation in the first case.
Some causes of common, typically non-lethal causes of hypoxia include:
- Altitude sickness (caused at high elevations with lower oxygen supply)
- Effects of scuba diving with nitrogen levels in the blood supply increasing
- Strenuous activities relating to cardiovascular output
Hypoxia, Anoxia, and Cerebral Palsy
However, the common cause of hypoxia, and more extremely anoxia, are problems that occur during the birthing process especially as relates to preterm birth. The reason that this is especially common in premature infants stems from that fact the lungs are the last organ to develop in a neonatal infant. Therefore, premature birth when complicated by birthing process complications can result in significant and critical deprivation of oxygen in a newborn. Oxygen deprivation could also occur in other birthing mishaps, such as if the umbilical cord becomes wrapped around the baby’s throat or is pinched or clinched causing the baby’s source of oxygen to be cut off. Similarly, the cord could prematurely exit the cervix leading to an emergency cesarean section. Ultimately, deprivation of oxygen during the birthing process is a known medical risk and cause of cerebral palsy.
Complications of Anoxia and Hypoxia
There are several potential effects of anoxia and hypoxia that range from short-term to long-term and vary in severity based on how much oxygen was lost, where it was lost, and how long the deprivation of oxygen lasted. In cases of cerebral anoxia, where oxygen flow is completely deprived of in the brain, permanent brain damage or even death can occur if the problem is not corrected in as timely a manner as possible. When the brain fails to get the oxygen it needs to function, it begins to operate in a dangerous manner that eventually leads to malfunction and permanent brain damage if not death. After six minutes of not receiving oxygen to the brain, an infant is declared brain dead.
Treatments of Anoxia and Hypoxia
When anyone is suffering from hypoxia or anoxia, the most important treatment is return normal oxygen flow to the patient. In the case of a newborn, this may be done through Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. This occurs when the baby is put into a chamber filled with 100 percent oxygen. It is intended to make up for the lack of oxygen sustained during the birthing process, while ideally eradicating any lasting effects caused by the deprivation. However, given that hypoxia and anoxia of merely a few minutes can cause lasting medical complications for infant patients, including cerebral palsy, the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy may prove insufficient to reverse permanent disability sustained as part of the birthing process.
Symptoms of Anoxia and Hypoxia
If an infant is suffering from oxygen deprivation, immediate emergency medical intervention is required. States of anoxia and hypoxia are indicated by a number of observable symptoms, most notably being difficulty with or no breathing. However, there are certain times when the infant is breathing without complication currently, but medical professionals suspect that infant had at one point crease breathing, most likely during the birthing process. In these cases, it is vital that the infant is monitored to watch for signs of complications arising from the oxygen depletion. Typical medical indicators of current or prior anoxic or hypoxic states can include decline in mental functions, jerky motions, a weakened body, or even lack of consciousness.