How Does Pulse Oximetry Help To Monitor Your Health?

Oxygen is vital for human life. Oxygen uptake can be inhibited due to health conditions such as obstructive pulmonary disease or during medical emergencies. In such cases it is helpful to measure blood oxygen levels through pulse oximetry, which is a non-invasive method of measuring oxygen levels.

How Does Pulse Oximetry Work?
Pulse oximetry uses the fact that different wavelengths of light are absorbed differently by oxygenated and non-oxygenated blood. This is because red blood cells, which use haemoglobin to bind oxygen and transport it through the blood, turn bright red when they are loaded with oxygen. Therefore, arterial blood is bright red in colour, whereas venous blood, which is returning from the body to the heart after dropping off its oxygen load, is a deep burgundy red. Pulse oximetry devices send two types of wavelengths through a thin part of a patient’s body such as an earlobe or a fingertip to a photo detector. Both wavelengths are altered on their way through the body and the difference is measured and used to calculate only the pulse of oxygenated blood.


Why Measure Blood Oxygen Levels?
There are many different circumstances during which it is important to measure the level of oxygenation of the blood. Some conditions such as sleep apnoea or chronic pulmonary obstructive disease can result in an ongoing lack of oxygen in the blood. Additionally, it is vital to be able to monitor oxygen levels in the blood of patients during operations. Moreover, it is very helpful to be able to monitor blood oxygen levels during medical emergencies. If oxygen levels in the blood are not sufficient it will impact brain function adversely. Critically, when oxygen is completely absent brain damage starts to occur within five minutes. In all of these cases the use of a small, light-weight and non-invasive pulse oximeter is a convenient and quick way of monitoring blood oxygen levels, which allows timely interventions to safeguard the health of patients.

Pulse Oximetry Devices
Oximeters are very small, plastic devices, which are normally clipped onto a fingertip or an earlobe in adults. They are not harmful and do not pierce the skin. They are battery operated and include an LED and a photo sensor, as well as an LCD display to show its readings. Today, pulse oximetry devices are mass-produced and therefore cheap to buy even for home use. They can measure pulse rate as well as oxygen levels and can thereby offer a convenient way of monitoring one’s health whenever needed.

A pulse oximeter offers a non-invasive and convenient way to monitor blood oxygen levels on an ongoing basis. As they are small and relatively cheap devices they can easily be used in the home for self-monitoring as well as during first aid scenarios. Being aware of the level of oxygenation of a patient’s blood allows for quick interventions when needed to safeguard a patient’s health.

Lousie Clay is a free-lance journalist and online blogger, who specialises on health and life style issues. She is particularly interested in patient empowerment and self-help, which is why she recommends the use of a pulse oximeter at home for some chronic conditions. If you want to know more click here for more detailed information on pulse oximetry and similar low-cost interventions.

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