Normal Blood Oxygen Level-home test and causes of high and low oxygen levels

What is the Normal Blood Oxygen Level? Causes of Hypoxemia and Hyperoxemia

Oxygen is the key to our brain and heart health. The body can survive without water and food for a few hours. If supply of oxygen to the body cells is disconnected, the vital organs cannot survive even for a few minutes. It is not that we breathe in oxygen as much as our bodies need. Certain physical conditions and long-term medications cause the body to increase or decrease intake of oxygen from the atmosphere, thereby resulting in high or low blood oxygen levels. Both high and low oxygen levels negatively impact several body functions. Some effects of abnormal blood oxygen levels on the body, if left untreated, may not be reversible. That’s why if normal range of blood oxygen levels is disturbed, it requires medical attention.

What is the Normal Blood Oxygen Level

95 to 100 % is the normal range of oxygen level in the blood. With the oxygen level within this range, the body cells have sufficient oxygen to keep the vital organs active, carry out regular functions and make us feel energetic. With the blood oxygen level out of the normal range, it is necessary to check if the level of oxygen in your blood is high or low.

Hypoxemia or Low Blood Oxygen Level: Possible Causes & Effects

Hypoxemia refers to a physical condition in which the blood oxygen level is below normal. If the oxygen level in your blood is too low, you may experience complications, mild or severe. Shortness of breath and dizziness are usual symptoms of hypoxemia. Those having low blood oxygen level feel fatigued and disoriented while doing exercise and some heavy work.

If the lungs are unable to inhale sufficient oxygen-rich air, the oxygen level drops in the blood. If hemoglobin quantity falls short of proper oxygen distribution throughout the body, the blood oxygen level falls. Those having anemia, asthma or any cardiovascular disease experience hypoxemia at high altitudes and during extreme atmospheric conditions. They may also suffer from headache and feel restless. Severe hypoxemia is the bane of cerebral health. It impairs the brain function, thereby causing short attention span, irregular breathing, skin discoloration, low blood pressure and low endurance for physical activity. If hypoxemia worsens causing a drastic fall of blood oxygen level, it may lead the body to coma.

Emphysema, pneumonia, pulmonary edema, pulmonary fibrosis, sleep apnea and narcotic medications are other common causes of low oxygen level in the blood.

Hyperoxemia or High Blood Oxygen Level: Possible Causes and Effects

Hyperoxemia is another physical condition related to high oxygen level in the blood. When the brain finds blood oxygen level high, it signals the body not to breathe at times. It is associated with such serious medical conditions as sleep apnea. In sleep apnea, individuals having high oxygen levels stop breathing occasionally during sleep. Those taking hyperbaric oxygen therapy are prone to experience hyperoxemia.

Visual disturbance is usually the first and most common symptom of hyperoxemia. It is followed by disorientation and restlessness. A high level of oxygen in the blood can cause brain damage in severe cases. It is mostly common to scuba divers and astronauts.

How to Check Blood Oxygen Level at Home

Checking your blood oxygen level helps to know if the lungs are able to take in sufficient oxygen from the air and exhale carbon dioxide out of the body properly. It also helps to know if oxygen is distributed throughout the body and if oxygen level is high or low. A handy device like pulse oximeter makes it a lot easier to measure blood oxygen levels at home. You can check the oxygen level of your blood using Pulse Oximeter, a handheld device, without going to a clinic.

Pulse Oximeter runs on batteries. Place it on your index finger and make sure that the fingertip is flat on the device. Press the ‘read’ button so that the device can measure your blood oxygen level. You can read the result in four or five seconds, on a small screen of the device. You can repeat the process if you wish to reconfirm the result.

How to Increase Oxygen Levels in Blood

Cases of hypoxemia are many times more than cases of hyperoxemia. If you are suffering the consequences of high blood oxygen level, you need to know how to increase oxygen levels in blood. If you live in a place with high air pollution, grow a garden in the balcony or on the terrace so that you can inhale maximum oxygen from the air.

If you are having shortness of breath, do some respiratory workout. It helps to increase the number and maximize the depth of breaths so that lungs can take in more oxygen and oxygen rich blood can circulate throughout the body.

Oxygen is one of the components of water. Therefore, increased water consumption means increased intake of oxygen into the body. Besides, daily consumption of oxygen rich foods like broccoli, celery, and green vegetables is another solution to how to increase oxygen level in blood.

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Kaushal M. Bhavsar (MBBS, MD)Assistant Professor in Pulmonary Medicine, GMERS Medical College, Ahmedabad