WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Hypoxia is the lack of oxygen in the tissues of the body that can cause symptoms like confusion and difficulty of speech.
- Silent hypoxia is a phenomenon where patients may be hypoxic, but do not display any symptoms.
- Reports have been emerging where COVID-19 patients present silent hypoxia, making the diagnosis of their condition more difficult.
When a person has oxygen levels that are dangerously low, this is known as hypoxia. However, some patients can appear stable and don’t present the usual symptoms of being hypoxic like confusion or being incapable of speech — this strange combination is called ‘happy hypoxia’ or silent hypoxia.
Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, more medical professionals have reported patients that have been presenting with this condition. Though the occurrence of happy hypoxia is anecdotal, an article published in the British Journal of Anaesthesia says that the phenomenon is emerging as a common clinical pattern for patients with coronavirus.
Normal levels of oxygen saturation in the blood of a healthy person would be around 95% and above. There have been patients who seemed perfectly fine even when A&E doctors found that tests revealed oxygen saturation levels that were in the 80s or 70s. In some cases, they were as low as 50%.
In diseases like pneumonia, it’s common for oxygen saturation levels to dip below 90%. This usually warrants hospitalization as this condition can lead to serious outcomes from confusion to shock and death.
The lack of oxygen usually triggers the body to react and take steps to gain the needed oxygen- like through increased breathing and rest.
However, this physiological response doesn’t happen with a number of COVID-19 patients. This poses an increased risk to patients and an extra obstacle for doctors to properly gauge the severity of their symptoms, delaying treatment. Hypoxia needs to be treated quickly to achieve the best results for the patient.
Source: IFL Science