Hypoxemia is a low level of oxygen in the blood. It decreases the amount of oxygen that reaches organs like the heart, kidney, and brain.
Hypoxemia may be caused by:
Problems getting oxygen into the lungs such asthma
Trouble moving oxygen from the lungs to the blood – can happen with lung damage or disease
Things that may raise your risk of hypoxemia include:
Health problems with your heart or lungs
Travel to places of high altitude
Taking certain medicines
You may have:
You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. Some signs like blue-ish nails or skin suggest low oxygen levels.
Your oxygen levels can be tested with:
Breathing tests may also be done to see how well your lungs are working.
Some may need emergency care right away. Other may need a change in their care plan.
The main treatment will be oxygen therapy.
Oxygen may be delivered through a mask or a tube just under the nose. It will increase the amount of oxygen that passes into your lungs. It will then improve the amount of oxygen in your blood. Oxygen may be needed:
Short term until problems have passed
Long term and daily for conditions like COPD
Not all hypoxemia can be prevented. If you have a condition that can lead to hypoxemia, follow your care plan. Let your care team know if you are having trouble with treatment.
Hypoxemia. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17727-hypoxemia. Updated May 7, 2018. Accessed May 1, 2019.
Hypoxemia—approach to the patient. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T920488/Hypoxemia-approach-to-the-patient. Updated September 1, 2017. Accessed May 1, 2019.
Last reviewed May 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 5/21/2019
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at email@example.com. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.