What is anoxia?

Anoxia is an extreme form of hypoxia (low levels of oxygen in the blood) in which there is a complete lack of oxygen supply to the body as a whole or to a specific organ or tissue region. Anoxia can result from inadequate amounts of oxygen in the air, such as at high altitudes, from an inability of your blood to load and carry oxygen to tissues and organs, from the inability of the heart to pump and distribute the oxygenated blood adequately, or from respiratory failure that prevents the blood from picking up oxygen in the lungs.

Blood Problems Spotlight

Anoxia can affect any tissue or organ in your body and is always serious. However, cerebral anoxia, or a lack of oxygen supply to the brain, is particularly threatening because brain cells begin to die within several minutes of oxygen deprivation.

Anoxia may occur in anyone, but it is more likely to occur in babies during birth and older people who are at higher risk of heart attacks or strokes.

Symptoms of localized anoxia depend on the part of the body that is affected. Symptoms of generalized anoxia reflect the lack of oxygen to the brain and rapidly progress to unconsciousness and coma.

Anoxia is a serious condition that should always be treated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, are experiencing any of the symptoms of anoxia, such as altered thought processes, dizziness, breathing difficulties, or confusion.


What are the symptoms of anoxia?

Symptoms of anoxia are serious and will begin to appear within minutes. Milder symptoms could indicate a hypoxic event that could lead to anoxia and should be immediately treated in an emergency setting.

Common milder symptoms of anoxia

Most symptoms of anoxia are severe. However, anoxia typically begins with milder symptoms including:


What causes anoxia?

Anoxia may be caused by a number of environmental factors or by underlying diseases or conditions.

Environmental factors that cause anoxia

Anoxia may be caused by a lack of oxygen or the presence of other chemicals in the air that affect the ability of your blood to load oxygen. These environmental effects may be caused by factors including:


How is anoxia treated?

The treatment of anoxia depends on its severity and the amount of damage to the tissue or organ that experienced the anoxia.

Common treatments for anoxia

In general, treatment for anoxia includes restoring the oxygen supply, through either increasing the amount of oxygen taken in, such as with an oxygen mask, or assistance with breathing. Other treatment options include... Read more about anoxiatreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Brain and Nerves