How to Monitor Oxygen Levels

Oxygen levels in the blood are monitored for a variety of reasons. Low oxygen levels can be a sign of a serious health condition, such as heart or lung disease. Oxygen levels are also monitored for people who have had a heart attack or stroke, as well as for those who have COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

There are two main ways to monitor oxygen levels in the blood:

  • Pulse oximetry: A small sensor is placed on your finger, earlobe, or toe. The sensor uses a light to measure how much oxygen is in your blood. The reading is displayed on a small screen.
  • Blood oxygen level: A blood sample is taken from an artery, usually in the wrist. The sample is then analyzed in a lab.

Your doctor will let you know which method is best for you.

What is a normal oxygen level?

A normal oxygen level is typically between 96 and 100 percent. Anything below 90 percent is considered low and requires treatment.

What causes low oxygen levels?

There are many possible causes of low oxygen levels, including:

  • Anemia
  • Heart disease
  • Lung disease
  • Sleep apnea
  • Smoking

If you have low oxygen levels, your doctor will work with you to find the cause and develop a treatment plan.

What are the symptoms of low oxygen levels?

The symptoms of low oxygen levels depend on the underlying cause. In general, however, low oxygen levels can cause:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Confusion

If you have any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.

How are low oxygen levels treated?

The treatment for low oxygen levels depends on the underlying cause. In some cases, supplemental oxygen may be necessary. In other cases, lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, may be enough to improve oxygen levels.

If you have low oxygen levels, your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan that is right for you.

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