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Difference Between Hypoxia and Hypoxemia

stethoscopeHypoxia vs Hypoxemia

Hypoxia- General term that describes lack of oxygen in tissue and body.

Hypoxemia – Specifically describe lack of Oxygen in blood.

Hypoxia 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!
Difference In Symptoms

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 or 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 and even death in extreme cases. As with hypoxemia, the degree of severity in the symptoms actually depends on the seriousness of the condition.

Difference In Reasons

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!
4.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 cardiac arrest, carbon monoxide poisoning or severe headaches. It may also be induced by suffocation or at high altitudes.

Difference in Treatment

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


1. Patients suffering from hypoxemia have restlessness, tachycardia or a high blood pressure. Patients with hypoxia suffer from sudden headaches, seizures and even death in some cases.
2. The reasons behind hypoxemia are usually long standing-whether it is a respiratory problem or a condition of the heart. Hypoxia is caused mainly by environmental conditions-for instance suffocation, high altitudes or even strangulation.
3. Treatment for hypoxia includes provision of immediate and fast life support mechanisms. Hypoxemia is treated by a variety of oxygen increasing procedures and red blood cell transfers.

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