Hypoxia is a medical condition where some part of the body fails to receive an adequate supply of oxygen. Hypoxia refers to a state where there is an insufficient supply of oxygen, as opposed to a condition of low arterial oxygen supply, known as hypoxemia. When there is a complete deprivation of oxygen, hypoxia becomes anoxia. Hypoxia frequently results from ascension to a high altitude, resulting in altitude sickness.
Treatment for hypoxia is geared towards returning the body’s oxygen toward a normal level. The body’s first and most natural reaction to hypoxia is hyperventilation. Hyperventilation will improve oxygen levels in the blood, but it cannot return the level to normal. Acclimatization, in which the body gradually adapts to higher elevations, also only partially compensates for lower oxygen levels in the blood.
During a high-altitude situation, oxygen enrichment is the only way to counter the effects of hypoxia. Climbers to the summit of Mt. Everett, for example, carry oxygen tanks. Oxygen concentrators are excellent devices for treating hypoxia. An oxygen concentrator is a device that employs pressure swing absorption to take ambient air and compress it. Oxygen concentrators for people living and working at higher altitudes decrease fatigue and improve sleep. Home oxygen concentrators have been adopted for use by individuals suffering from emphysema.