A patient with hypoxia presents with skin that may turn blue or cherry red, according to WebMD. He may have an elevated heart rate or a cough, be confused, gasp for air while he has shortness of breath, and sweat and wheeze. Hypoxia is a medical emergency.
A severe attack of asthma often causes hypoxia, claims WebMD. Asthma happens when the airways in the lungs constrict. Many people cough when they have an attack, but coughing uses up oxygen and makes the situation worse.
Other conditions that can lead to hypoxia include lung diseases, such as pulmonary edema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and emphysema, states WebMD. Pain medications can suppress breathing. People with heart problems are also at risk for hypoxia as are people who are anemic, as anemics do not have enough red blood cells to carry the oxygen they need. Poisons such as cyanide can also cause hypoxia. Breathing in carbon monoxide is another possible cause, claims Mayo Clinic. If there is too much carbon monoxide in the air, it takes the place of oxygen in the cells and causes a sometimes fatal hypoxia.
People who are suffering hypoxia because of an asthma attack can ease the condition by using an inhaler, says WebMD. Other people receive oxygen therapy.