Silent Hypoxia : A silent killer during COVID19

Silent Hypoxia (also happy hypoxia) is hypoxia with no shortness of breath or other visible symptoms. Simple Hypoxia is a condition where body or a particular region of body faces shortage of oxygen and show some symptoms. Silent Hypoxia is different from Hypoxia only because it shows no visible symptoms and the patient often can't feel any problem unless oxygen level falls below 50 and severe side effect start to appear. 

During COVID19 pandemic, several medical professionals have reported that Silent Hypoxia is appearing in COVID19 patients. Patients often reach hospitals when oxygen level of patient get reduced to a dangerous level and some organs get damaged to an extent where it is hard for them to recover.

How Silent Hypoxia is killing COVID19 Patients ?

If Oxygen saturation of a person goes below 90% then he/she starts to feel shortness of breath, which is usually seen in COVID19 patients. This is the time when they need oxygen supply to keep the oxygen level adequate. But some home-isolated COVID19 patients feel no such symptoms apart from normal fever. Most of them think that they are non-symptomatic patients and will recover soon. But according to doctors some of such patients often complain stiffness in chest after 2 to 7 days of infection, and when they check their oxygen saturation, it appears to be just 50, which is dangerously low and they need ventilator just at the time of admission in the hospital. Most of such patients should be unconscious, but they just complain that they can't take a deep breath and feel some stiffness in chest. According to experts carbon dioxide level of such patients rises and fluid builds-up inside lung's air sacs, which can lead to acute respiratory failure.

Why some people can't feel their degrading condition during COVID19 ?

Some of the young and healthy people who are optimistic that they will recover from COVID19 with little to no symptoms often don't monitor their oxygen level regularly. We all know that this disease deteriorate the lungs. As the lungs get deteriorated with time, people often start to breath a little fast and don't notice this change. Our body is mysterious, as in some cases it shows no other symptoms and the patient feels that its normal. But as hours change to days, lung capacity and oxygen saturation get reduced to dangerous level, and at that time people feel stiffness in chest. It is the condition of "Silent Hypoxia" and people often come late to hospital, without even noticing that they are late and need to be put on ventilator instantly. At that time their Chest scans show the severity of infection in their lungs and lack of oxygen has already damaged some vital organs like heart, kidney and brain to a dangerous level.

Some experts believe that young healthy people suffering from COVID19 have more chances of  being a victim of "Silent Hypoxia", because their body and brain tries its best to keep itself working even with lower levels of oxygen.

What causes Silent Hypoxia ?

At present all of us associate Silent Hypoxia with COVID19, but it is a mysterious medical condition and researches are still going on to know the actual reason behind it. On the basis of these researches, some experts give the following reasons behind Silent Hypoxia.

  • Formation of small blood clots in lungs may cause silent hypoxia.
  • Breathing rates of COVID19 patients increase gradually and body tries to adjust, which sometimes lead to silent hypoxia.
  • According to preliminary results of a computer model study done by Jacob Herrmann, combination of three medical conditions might be a reason behind Silent Hypoxia. First, lungs of COVID19 patients lack the ability to restrict the blood flow to damaged tissues. Second, Lining of blood-vessels get inflamed due to COVID19 infection. Third, Air-to-blood ratio in COVID19 patients get mismatched. 
  • The most believed reason behind Silent Hypoxia is that lungs loose the ability to restrict the blood flow in damaged area. Coronavirus not just damages the lungs, but in some cases also fools them that everything is fine.  

How Silent Hypoxia can be avoided ?

Yes it can be avoided just by not being too much optimistic. As the coronavirus is mutating, it is getting the ability to severely infect the younger age group. So your young age and good health might be a positive thing to fight against COVID19, but it can also keep you symptom free, which can make you fall prey to Silent Hypoxia. If you are tested positive for COVID19 or even if you feel that you are COVID-positive, then you should regularly monitor your oxygen level. You can easily do it using a pulse oximeter. 

Facts about Silent Hypoxia among COVID19 patients

  • Two-third of COVID19 patients never complain shortness of breath, but one-third of them have Silent Hypoxia.
  • If not detected on time, Silent Hypoxia can be fatal as it causes organ failure.
  • Lack of shortness of breath is not a sign of well-being of a COVID19 patient.
  • Silent Hypoxia is still a mystery for medical community as in this condition oxygen saturation might fall upto just 50 without getting noticed, while in other cases patients start to show symptoms even if oxygen level reaches 92.
  • In case of Silent Hypoxia, a COVID19 patient needs oxygen support much before he/she feels it.

Reference:

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silent_hypoxia
  • https://www.ijidonline.com/article/S1201-9712(20)32271-2/fulltext

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