Hypoxia vs Hypoxemia – Facts, Causes, Symptoms and Mode of Treatment


People normally have this argument on Hypoxia vs Hypoxemia and it takes deep thinking to quickly identify the exact ailment.

Hypoxia as it known and hypoxemia are two different conditions that are often used to indicate the same set of symptoms. In reality, they are different from each other in a number of ways. So, next time somebody thinks he is talking about hypoxemia and is actually talking about hypoxia, you will know how to correct them!

Hypoxia vs Hypoxemia

Hypoxia is a condition in which the body or a region of the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply at the tissue level. Hypoxia may be classified as either generalized, affecting the whole body, or local, affecting a region of the body.

The lack of aqequate supply of oxygen to the tissue is normally caused due to damages in the lungs.

Hypoxemia is an abnormally low level of oxygen in the blood. More specifically, it is oxygen deficiency in arterial blood.Hypoxemia has many causes, often, and can cause tissue hypoxia as the blood is not supplying enough oxygen to the body.

This low level of oxygen in the blood can be caused due to severe heart conditions or lung conditions like asthma.


The severity in both cases depends on the amount of air pressure the patient is receiving.

A patient with mild hypoxemia may suffer from:

  • restlessness
  • confusion
  • anxiety
  • headaches.

Patients with acute forms of the disease will suffer from increased blood pressure, apnea or tachycardia. Patients may also suffer from hypotension or irregular contractions of the ventricles. In extreme cases, the patient may even go into a coma.

On the other hand, patients suffering from hypoxia have slightly different symptoms.

These may include;

  • severe headaches
  • seizures
  • even death in extreme cases.

As with hypoxemia, the degree of severity in the symptoms actually depends on the seriousness of the condition.


Hypoxemia is usually caused by respiratory disorders. However, it may also be caused by the reasons below:

  1. Hypoventilation-symbolized by decreased levels of oxygen in the blood and increased levels of carbon dioxide.
  2. A decrease in the low inspired oxygen content in the blood
  3. It may also be caused by a left to right shunt!

It may also be caused by ventilation and perfusion mismatch or diffusion impairment.

Hypoxia, on the other hand, may be caused by a variety of factors including

  1. cardiac arrest
  2. carbon monoxide poisoning
  3. severe headaches

It may also be induced by suffocation or at high altitudes.


There are differences in the way the two conditions are tackled.

How Hypoxia is treated

For instance, since hypoxia can escalate into a life threatening condition within moments, it should be promptly treated. The patient will need life support measures, though not the machines involved in all cases. The patient is usually put on intravenous support and may need to take medications that prevent seizures and a high blood pressure.

How Hypoxemia is treated

In contrast, a patient suffering from hypoxemia may be advised on lying flat on the ground because this increases the supply of oxygen. In more severe cases, the patient may need to be put on mechanical ventilation like CPAP.

The patient may also be put on oxygen while he is on CPAP. Alternatively, the patient may also be provided packed red blood cells. This increases the supply of oxygen in the blood. However, it cannot be given to patients who suffer from polycythemia or an abnormally high supply of red blood cells.


Difference Between Hypoxia and Hypoxemia

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