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Oxygen as indicator of lung disease

Posted Jul 30 2008 4:09pm


Importance of energy

Making our organs to work implies the transformation of energy from different instances. Each organ require a provition of nutrients to accomplish its functions. The most visible function is seen in muscles. Muscular actions are designed to help in life with almost every activity. Our muscles take a big part of nutrients and transform them into energy and subsequent physical actions.

Oxygen: a combustible

For the transformation of nutrients at celular muscular level, the combustible “gas” is Oxygen. It is brought to that level bound to Iron in Hemoglobin (Hb) of the red blood cells. Oxygen binds to iron in Hb at lungs where blood is exposed to oxygen. In the lungs, the thin barrier between blood and air is amazingly wide to allow this fuction.

Lung illness and oxygen change

Respiratory diseases affecting the surface for exchange will have an eventual impact in the take over of oxygen from atmospheric air. Acute and chronic conditions will (depending on their severity) reduce the healthy surface for exchange. The good news is that most of acute conditions will reverse or let minimal sequelae. Chronic conditions like extensive scaring, wide destruction of alveolar walls will manifest oxygen reduction in blood at some point of the course of the disease.

Reduced oxygen

Preserving the surface available for a healthy gas exchange provides with an adequate field for physical activities. Exercise requires, not only a healthy lung but also some physical (progressive training). Curiously, lung reserve for gas exchange is big and delay clinical manifestations of reduced blood oxygen (also called hypoxemia). When hypoxemia occurs something severe and serious may be happening and physical activities will be affected.

COPD and reduced oxygen

COPD is characterized by progressive destruction of alveolar walls as well as persistent bronchoconstriction that impedes air of leaving the alveoli. Under these circumstances oxygenated air can not reach the surface that allow access to blood and the surface that can be reached it’s already reduced.

What we can expect from COPD effects at some point of the disease development is hypoxemia. COPD patients with advanced disease will have their physical activities impacted due to hypoxemia especially when the energy requirements are increased (exercise).

Oxygen reduction in other lung diseases: a few examples

These effects may be seen during some asthma crisis. In a set of pulmonary disease called interstitial lung diseases the gas exchange surface is severely affected. In some cases of pneumonia the infectio may lead to pus accumulation in air spaces limiting air access into the lungs.

From Oxygen to where?

Oxygen measurement may be required in many respiratory symptoms assessments. If oxygen is reduced it may be necessary to consider levels of other gases like CO2 as well as levels of acidity. This is for having a more complete profile of the gas exchange and the responses of the body due to this effect.

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