A pulse oximeter is a very simple yet important piece of medical equipment. It checks to see if your blood oxygen level is within a healthy range. When your oxygen level is below this range, it is referred to as hypoxemia.
When your blood oxygen level falls below the normal range, your lungs begin to narrow, actually restricting blood flow through the lungs. While this is occurring, a significant amount of stress is placed on the heart, as it is forced into working much harder to try and get blood to the lungs to oxygenate the body.
Low oxygen in the blood can also result in Polycythemia, which is an increased production of red blood cells. Polycythemia increases the risk of clotting and can hurt brain function. It may take a toll on memory, mood, speech, motor functions and problem-solving skills.
If you have COPD and taking medications, it's still important to keep an eye on your blood oxygen level. It can start to drop if you're doing more physical activity than usual, or if you've been sick. It can also be dangerous if you are traveling to, or moving to a location with a high altitude.
For the above reasons, it is evident how important it is to monitor your blood oxygen levels. You can keep an eye on your blood oxygen level with a hand-held pulse oximeter. This way, you can keep it on you at all times, and check it whenever you want. Your doctor might suggest checking it at certain times of day, or tell you to check it a certain number of times each day.
If not, here are some signs you may need to check your blood oxygen levels. You could experience these symptoms as a result of mild hypoxemia (low blood oxygen levels):
- Increased heart rate
How low is too low for an average blood oxygen level? Most doctors like to see patients remain in a range of 88-92%, but it always best to speak with your doctor about your best saturation levels. If it falls below 88-92%, you begin to enter into the range in which the oxygen in your blood doesn't have enough pressure behind it to get into the red blood cells.
Many patients carry pulse oximeters with them where ever they go. They are small enough to fit in your pocket or purse. These little devices allow you to monitor your O2 levels at all times keeping you healthy and informed. Pulse oximeters are inexpensive and easy to find. You can find them online, or even at many local pharmacies and drugstores. If you have additional questions, be sure to ask your doctor about the importance of utilizing a pulse oximeter and why it is so important to keep with you at all times.