Cerebral hypoxia: types and causes

There is talk of cerebral hypoxia when the flow of oxygen to the brain is lower than considered normal. A normal flow of oxygen would be one that allowed the brain to function properly, according to the body's requirements.

We must understand that the brain is an organ whose functions cannot cease. Sometimes, some parts are activated and sometimes other, but the rest of the components of the human body depend on their correct performance.

Due to its constant operation, the brain is a big oxygen consumer. That oxygen comes through the arteries that distribute the blood from the neck up. If the blood decreases, so will the oxygen.

The brain is greatly affected by the lack of oxygen. The cells that compose it begin their death process, known as cerebral infarction, when just five minutes have passed without oxygen. This demonstrates the relevance that an episode of cerebral hypoxia may have.

Causes of cerebral hypoxia

The causes behind a cerebral hypoxia are varied. Sometimes, only the oxygen that reaches the skull region decreases, and other times, along with oxygen, there is a decrease in blood flow, with all that that implies.

Between the Causes we can name:

  • Altitude: being at great heights above sea level produces a decrease in the oxygen available to the brain to function. It is the "evil of heights" and is associated with sports practices such as climbing and mountaineering.
  • Gas poisoning: Carbon monoxide is the main representative of this cause. When poisoning by this gas occurs, oxygen loses its place in the blood and is displaced by carbon monoxide. In this way, cells throughout the body receive an element that they cannot use for their metabolism.
  • Spinal bulb neurological diseases: Some pathologies, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, for example, attack the brain's breathing center, paralyzing the respiratory muscles. When respiratory mechanics fail, less oxygen enters and a choking-like mechanism occurs.
  • Suffocation: both the one that happens intentionally, with criminal motives, and the one that can be linked to accidents, are the cause of cerebral hypoxia. Tightening the neck, drowning with liquids or inhaling fumes from a fire are various forms that suffocation takes.
  • Arterial hypotension: When blood pressure drops too low, it becomes insufficient to irrigate all tissues, especially those farthest from the heart. Among the most affected tissues is the brain.
  • Heart problems: Any heart disease that limits your adequate pumping capacity and at a pace can lead to cerebral hypoxia. It may be an acute event, such as a myocardial infarction, or a chronic situation such as arrhythmias.
  • Stroke: They produce cerebral hypoxia in certain regions, either because a cerebral artery is clogged with a clot or because a section of the vessels in the brain breaks causing bleeding.

Both a stroke and a heart attack can be behind a cerebral hypoxia

Read on: Perinatal asphyxia: know your risk factors

Types of presentation

According to the brain area that is affected by cerebral hypoxia, it can be classified into different types. Some hypoxic episodes only hurt cells of a particular point in the brain, while, other times, the general flow stops.

Thus, we can describe the following types of cerebral hypoxia:

Keep discovering: Stroke can be prevented

How to know if you suffer from cerebral hypoxia

Although the symptoms of cerebral hypoxia depend on how long the lack of oxygen lasts, there are signs that are distinctive. Remember that a hypoxia of a few seconds may not leave sequels, but, if it extends for five minutes, there will surely be cerebral infarction.

In momentary cerebral hypoxies there may be lack of attention, some memory loss, rare sensations in the extremities of the body, difficulties in speech, etc. You can also limit movements, as if there were paralysis.

At a longer time without oxygen flow, seizures, fainting with loss of consciousness and even coma appear. At this point, care becomes an emergency that requires immediate life support measures from the medical team.

If five minutes of cerebral hypoxia are exceeded, then there is a heart attack. A small heart attack can lead to a subsequent recovery with rehabilitation, but a massive heart attack is capable of causing the death of the entire brain.

So, before any neurological symptom, it is preferable to consult with the specialist. On the other hand, if a person faints and does not react immediately, or convulses, the right step is to contact an emergency care service that can help quickly.