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Oxygen Therapy: Signs of Oxygen Deprivation

Updated on May 18, 2016

Learn To Recognize Telltale Signs Of Oxygen Deprivation

Many people need supplemental oxygen constantly - it could be everyday, all day long; it could be while exercising or for sleep at night. In fact more and more people are using supplemental oxygen everyday. A few years back it wasn´t common and now, although common is perhaps too strong a word, it dosen´t merit a second look.

Whatever the case may be adjusting to external oxygen delivery, whether it is a portable oxygen concentrator, an oxygen tank or cylinder, is a process they all have to go through. In time, and this will vary depending on the person and frequency, it becomes another part of the everyday. It just has to be done and therefore accepted.

One of the risks of having to receive additional oxygen is not getting enough and this can happen both to those who are new to supplemental oxygen as well as to those that have been on oxygen therapy for a longer period of time. There are a number of reasons for insufficient oxygen that go from malfunction of the unit, to exertion, a twist in the hose or faulty settings. It can be something as simple of breathing through the mouth for those who use nose cannulas.

The important thing is to recognize the symptoms of oxygen deprivation - and this goes for both patients and caretakers or close family and friends. One of the effects of oxygen deprivation is losing concentration and awareness; this means that many times the patient will not notice a lack of oxygen and cannot therefore take corrective measures. Familiarity breeds contempt and in this case it can mean that once you get used to living with additional oxygen, it becomes a habit and your level of awareness goes down. This can also happen to relatives and those who share time with a patient. This is just human nature.

Signs of Oxygen Deprivation

The following is a list of signs of oxygen deprivation; this list doesn´t pretend to cover all signs but rather a guide to help you out.. Both patients and those who are close to them should be aware of them so that in the event they can act accordingly.

1. Lips and finger nails turn a bluish color. This can also be a heart warning due to poor circulation.
2. Concentration can also be affected and can be recognized when conversation is disjointed and the person begins to slur words.
3 Some headaches are also caused by lack of oxygen.
4. Drowsiness.
5. Shortness of breath, irregular breathing or breathlessness.
6. Anxiety and tension.

If you or someone near you thinks they are recognizing any of these signs you can check the blood oxygenation levels with an oximeter. If lack of oxygen is confirmed you can increase the delivery. It is important to stay calm as agitation has a direct effect on your breathing. You must also identify the cause which could be equipment related or health related and then act accordingly - referring to your doctor or checking the oxygen delivery equipment.


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    • profile image

      Johnk453 3 years ago

      Howdy! Would you mind if I share your blog with my twitter group? Theres lots of people that I believe would really enjoy your content. Please let me know. Thanks fdgfekbdkbdb

    • profile image

      Donna Leivas 4 years ago

      A few days ago I got up for a cup of coffee and blacked out fainted and fell, my head hit my china cabined oak door and broke it; I have sleep apena, and it seems after gettin up I black out everyday but most of the time Iam sitting down wonder if I need more oxygen during the day time; ?

    • profile image

      Pat S 5 years ago

      Can lack of oxygen cause legs to give out falling down?????

    • Philuc profile image

      Philuc 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador

      Hi melia,

      Sorry for the time delay. The best answer I can give you, and please note that it is for information purposes and should in no way replace a doctors opinion as the age of your patient could have other considerations, comes from:


      "You may now be asking, "what does this have to do with me being cold?" Good that you asked. Cold extremities usually have a lower blood flow (think back to the first mechanism to preserve core temperature), which translates to less oxygen rich blood being delivered to the distal extremity. This in turn leads to tissues producing lactic acid and more oxygen being dumped in these cold areas. Your pulse oximeter reads the "saturation of hemoglobin with oxygen molecules" usually in the finger, and in a cold hand with a lowered local pH the red blood cell, with it's heme proteins, would appear to have less oxygen still attached to them when they passed by the sensor. So your oxygen reading would in fact be lower, not because you have less oxygen in your body, but because the red blood cells passing that particular sensor location would have more readily given up oxygen at that location and appear "relatively" more oxygen depleted than red blood cells in warmer parts of the body." Unquote.

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      melia 5 years ago

      I care for a 93 year old gentleman who is supposed to be using his oxygen on a regular bases. He has good days and thinks he doesn't need to do it so then he tires easily, gets confused and complains he's cold when its 89 degrees in the house. Is getting cold have anything to do with lack of oxygen too?

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      paula :+) 5 years ago

      Hi I have no energy its lawful I have to push myself to do things. I have hard cough at night really bad. Do you have any suggestions. Im going to see a breathing dr soon and I can't wait for his results. Thank you have a goodone :+) its uncomfortable feeling through my whole body I think my oxygen might be low I just drag all day and nigh ugh

    • profile image

      lynn schrader 6 years ago

      im 82 and have had depression off and on for 50 years cant take medication and now i have early morning anxiety im managing diabetis 2 without insulin and meds and get oxcygen at nite the anxiety wears off after breakfast it is pretty awfull is there anything i can eat as soon as i wake up that will help im also lonely if i could get a few years of happy please help irmelin

    • Philuc profile image

      Philuc 6 years ago from Quito, Ecuador

      Hi deleta,

      I am not a doctor, just someone with too many close relatives affected by COPD and so I have been studying all this for some time. Having said that don´t go for self medication. Normally the people near you are the first to realize you may have sleep apnea as they can here you.

      For an introduction to sleep apnea, visit:

    • profile image

      deleta 6 years ago

      I'm just guessing at this. I have been told by my husband and sister that I have sleep apnea. Also, I have periods where I have what seems to be almost mini black outs. When I cough hard or bend down. My Dr. recommended a sleep study but I could never get off work for it. I am overweight and have tried to lose lbs. but it's hard when I get breathless so easy. Will an otc asthma enhaler help? I do have sinus issues too.

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      Mike 6 years ago

      Just started using ox therapy. Was on a CPAP machine for sleep apnea and with the addition of ox my sleep is even better now. I am on 2L idle and 4 with activity. Not sure if this enough just yet though... Will be seeing this soon I suppose.....

    • profile image

      cindywrd3 6 years ago

      Oxygen therapy will be very helpful for those you have difficulty in breathing,since oxygen is vital in our daily living specially in our brain, it is the one that carry bloods in our brain.

    • profile image

      krikekim 6 years ago

      It is very informational! I will utilize oxygen therapy one of this days.

    • profile image

      mikeredd27 6 years ago from Canada

      Nice hub I was searching information about signs of lack of oxygen since few days and I was unable to find any appropriate information thank you for sharing it on this hub.

    • profile image

      douglas39 6 years ago from Bedford

      Thanks for such useful information about oxygen therapy its really hard to find I appreciate your hub.

    • videotoweb profile image

      videotoweb 6 years ago

      This is a useful hub. Also, I believe that one of the earliest signs of oxygen deprivation is yawning. That explains why we tend to yawn and get sleepy after having a large meal because more blood and oxygen supply focus on the digestive system and somehow deprives our CNS with the normal oxygen it should have.

    • BlueSkyBright profile image

      BlueSkyBright 6 years ago

      you can never have enough oxygen - this portable oxygen concentrator looks like it can really help

    • Philuc profile image

      Philuc 7 years ago from Quito, Ecuador

      Hi Jase,

      Thanks for your input - just one thing Linda wrote she doesn't have COPD

    • profile image

      jase 7 years ago

      hey linda!

      the reason for the lower amount of O2 at night for a COPD patient is because your lungs can not dispel the CO2 as fast as it can make it, and you can "drown" in oxygen.

    • Philuc profile image

      Philuc 8 years ago from Quito, Ecuador

      Hi Linda,

      It would be very irresponsible of me to even guess, first because I am not a doctor and secondly your doctor has your medical history. May I suggest that you ask your doctor to clarify? After all he must have a diagnosis.

      Sorry I can't be more helpful.

      PS. You can get more information and help at:

    • profile image

      LINDA RUNKLE 8 years ago

      I do not have COPD however my Dr has me on 2L O2 at night.

      I can not find the reason, can you help?

    • Philuc profile image

      Philuc 8 years ago from Quito, Ecuador


      I am glad you have found it useful - sorry about your COPD. I have direct close contact with a family member on long term oxygen therapy as well as other friends and I have seen much of what life can be like with supplemental oxygen. And you know what? It can be very good.

      All the best and make sure you keep your spirits up (I know, easier said than done).

    • profile image

      T.M. Deschamps 8 years ago

      I have C.O.P.D. and will be using Oxygen Therapy sometime in the future. This article has been very informative and useful to me. Thank you.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 8 years ago from Chicago

      Good and useful imformation. Thanks!