What are the effects of lack of oxygen to the brain?

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What are the effects of lack of oxygen to the brain?
Oxygenated Brain (Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Shaheen Lakhan)

Cerebral hypoxia (decreased supply of oxygen to the brain) may be caused by a variety of conditions, result in a variety of symptoms and ultimately cause catastrophic damage to your brain. Immediate treatment is required to prevent severe brain damage and death.

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Cerebral hypoxia may be caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, heart attack, head trauma, drowning, suffocating, choking, strangling, anaesthesia complications, smoke inhalation, extremely low blood pressure, high altitudes, drug overdose or a stroke.


Mild symptoms include memory loss, diminished attention span, poor judgment and decreased coordination. Severe symptoms include seizures, coma, no response to light, not breathing and brain death.


Treatment largely depends on what caused the cerebral hypoxia. It is crucial to receive breathing assistance, fluids and medications to both support blood pressure and to prevent seizures.


The prognosis depends on the length of time that your brain spent deprived of oxygen and the extent of brain damage that may have occurred. Your brain cells are very sensitive to the effects of diminished oxygenation and may begin to die within 5 minutes of the oxygen supply being compromised.

What To Expect During Recovery

During the recovery process, it is normal to experience personality changes, memory loss, twitches, muscle spasms, amnesia and hallucinations.


Complications may include nutritional deficiencies, pneumonia, bed sores and deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in your veins).

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