What You Need to Know About Your Blood Oxygen Level

What You Need to Know About Your Blood Oxygen Level

Before 2020, you probably did not worry much about the blood oxygen level. Maybe you were sick once and required surgery. So, a doctor clipped a sensor to the fingertip and tested your levels. Chances are that you did not pay much attention to that measurement back then. And everything changed in 2020!

COVID-19 showed everyone that oxygen levels and lung health are closely interconnected. Thus, the manufacturers of most modern fitness trackers have added features to measure oxygens levels in the blood. So, should oxygen levels 80, 70, or 90 be good enough? Read on to know more.

What can you derive from your blood oxygen level?

The blood oxygen level measures the amount of oxygen that circulates the red blood cells. A pulse oximeter is used for measuring blood oxygen levels. It is a smaller device that you can clip on your fingertips. It shines a small light into the blood vessels in the finger to measure the oxygen from the reflected light.

The normal oxygen level in the healthy lungs is between 80- and 100-mm Hg (millimeters of mercury). In case a pulse oximeter measures your oxygen level (i.e., SpO2), oxygen level 80 is not the measure. Typically, the normal reading, in this case, is between 95 and 100 percent.

But in COPD and other types of lung diseases, the ranges might not apply. Your doctor will inform you about the normal range for your particular condition. For instance, it is common for people with severe COPD to have a pulse oxygen level between 88 and 91 percent.

Hypoxemia is a condition where the blood oxygen level is below normal. It is often a cause for concern. The severity of hypoxemia and the lower level of oxygen are directly proportional.

It is a cause of concern when the oxygen level goes below 87 percent or oxygen level 80 percent. When the readings are low, it is important to get in touch with a healthcare provider right away or visit the nearest emergency room or urgent care center.

COVID-19 and blood oxygen levels: The connection

People with COVID-19 have seriously low oxygen levels. If you are exposed to COVID-19 or you have tested positive without any symptoms, checking the blood oxygen level is not necessary. However, if you develop any symptoms, you will have to check the levels. Get in touch with the healthcare provider if it is low or you note that it is dropping.

Is it necessary to check the blood oxygen level at other times?

In case you have a heart or lung condition, your doctor may want you to monitor your blood oxygen level routinely at home. It is highly recommended for the ones with:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Asthma

Causes of low blood oxygen level

Different situations can lead to low oxygen levels:

  • Blood clots in the lung
  • Pus, water, or blood fill the air sacs present in the lungs
  • Loss or scarring of lung tissue
  • Sudden exercises, if you have lung or heart disease
  • Breathing problems, for example in someone profoundly intoxicated
  • Transitioning from a lower altitude, where the air contains a higher concentration of oxygen, to a higher altitude, where there is a lower oxygen concentration

How to check the blood oxygen levels

You have a couple of options. You can purchase an FDA-approved oximeter from an online retailer or pharmacy for an affordable rate. Doctors recommend oximeters for many patients with chronic diseases. Also, doctors ask people to get the devices to the doctor’s appointments for comparing measurements.

Many of the latest wearable devices can measure blood oxygen levels. For instance, you will find Fitbit, Garmin devices, and Apple Watch Series 6 to track oxygen levels through the wrist. There are even ring oximeters to take readings through the finger.

Though this is okay, there are some caveats. There are differences in the way oxygen is measured by these devices. Some of the methods are not cleared yet by the FDA. They are okay as long as the results are compared later to an FDA-approved device.

Even if you note low oxygen levels on fitness trackers, get in touch with a healthcare provider for a complete evaluation. Even if your wearable device showcases a normal oxygen level, but you do not feel well, get in touch with your doctor. Do not go for false assurances and talk to a medical professional.

The endnote

And that is all you need to know about low blood oxygen levels. Make sure you follow your doctor’s advice about monitoring your blood oxygen levels. Get in touch with your healthcare specialist right away if you note that the oxygen level is dipping below normal.

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