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Low Oxygen Symptoms: Signs You May Not Be Getting Enough Oxygen

Oxygen is one of the most abundant elements in the universe, which makes it a bit ironic, then, that people with breathing problems are unable to get enough of it. The body needs to maintain a normal oxygen level, which requires a certain amount of circulating oxygen in the blood at all times to effectively nourish the cells, tissues and organs. When blood oxygen levels drop below normal, a condition known as hypoxemia may occur. 

Hypoxemia is an abnormally low blood oxygen level, which can have many causes and consequences. Hypoxemia can be acute, occurring suddenly because of an emergency situation like high altitudes or a blood clot in the artery of a lung. It can also be chronic, taking place over time because of a long-term health condition like COPD or pulmonary fibrosis. With a lack of oxygen in the body, symptoms can become uncomfortable at first, then worrisome and eventually they can become life-threatening. Hypoxemia is the main reason that people with COPD and other lung diseases are prescribed supplemental oxygen. Unfortunately, many people with COPD assume that their symptoms are part of their disease and continue to assume they are maintaining a normal oxygen level. Often, they are unaware that they are hypoxemic and, unless prompted to do so for another reason, they might not immediately seek medical attention. However, when there is a lack of oxygen in the body, symptoms can progress quickly. This can be dangerous because hypoxemia associated with COPD contributes to a reduced quality of life, impaired skeletal muscle function, decreased exercise tolerance and an increased risk of death.[1] 

If you or a loved one have COPD or another chronic illness that puts you at greater risk for low oxygen levels and hypoxemia, it is important that you are able to recognize the signs and symptoms of lack of oxygen so that appropriate action can be taken if, or when, it occurs. Here are the symptoms of low oxygen levels, as well as how to check your oxygen saturation level at home.

Symptoms of Low Oxygen in Blood (Hypoxemia)

Low oxygen symptoms of hypoxemia vary depending upon its severity. If you or a loved one experience any of the symptoms listed below, contact a health care provider as soon as possible. If you experience more than one of the following symptoms of low oxygen levels, seek medical attention immediately:


  • Confusion: Mild confusion can be one of the earlier signs of hypoxemia and can manifest as a change in typical behavior, inattention, disorganized thinking and altered alertness. As hypoxemia progresses, so will the confusion.[2]
  • A sense of euphoria: A sense of euphoria can occur as hypoxemia progresses to hypoxia and can appear similar to intoxication. There may be changes in appearance, behavior, rate and continuity of speech, mood or even hallucinations and abnormal beliefs about time, location or people. Judgment, memory and insight may be impaired.[3]
  • Restlessness: One of the earliest signs of hypoxemia is restlessness (often accompanied by anxiety). It may be difficult to rest, relax or concentrate, and can eventually progress to agitation.[4]
  • Headache: When insufficient amounts of oxygen reach the brain, headaches are common and can be an early indicator of hypoxemia. 
  • Shortness of breath: Shortness of breath, or dyspnea, is one of the more common signs of hypoxemia. Shortness of breath feels like being winded, or struggling to get enough breath. Shortness of breath may also include a tight sensation in the chest, rapid breathing or feeling unable to get enough oxygen.[5] Pursing lips or flaring nostrils while breathing may also occur.[4]
  • Rapid breathing: Also called tachypnea, a rapid respiration rate is typically accompanied by shortness of breath, and the sensation of needing to breathe more or faster than normal. Both of these conditions indicate respiratory distress.[4][5]
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness and/or fainting spells: Feeling dizzy or lightheaded and/or fainting is a common indication that your body is not getting the oxygen it needs. A floating feeling or feeling the frequent need to yawn may also occur.[6]
  • Lack of coordination: A slowing in motor speed and altered hand coordination are common signs of hypoxia, or insufficient oxygen in the tissues, which can be caused by hypoxemia.[7] 
  • Rapid heart rate: Increases in heart rate, or the sensation of the heart racing, can occur as the body attempts to compensate for the low levels of oxygen in the blood.[8]
  • Elevated blood pressure: Also called hypertension, elevated blood pressure is a common symptom of hypoxemia and is often a sign that hypoxemia has progressed.[9] 
  • Visual disturbances: Changes in vision, like tunnel vision, can be indicative of hypoxemia and may indicate progression to hypoxia.[10]
  • A bluish tint to the lips, earlobes and/or nail beds (cyanosis): This is a sign of severe hypoxemia, indicating that your cells are not getting enough oxygenated blood. Cyanosis should be taken extremely seriously and warrants emergency medical care.[8]
  • Elevated red blood cell count or polycythemia: If hypoxemia is a long-term problem, the body may overproduce red blood cells, which causes the blood to become thick, restricting its ability to travel through smaller blood vessels. This may cause additional symptoms, including burning sensations in the extremities, ringing in the ears and itching.[11]


Monitoring Oxygen Levels at Home

For many patients experiencing a lack of oxygen in the body, symptoms may require that patients check themselves for hypoxemia at regular intervals. In these cases, a pulse oximetry monitor plays an important role in the home monitoring of patients with lung disease.[12] Whether you are using supplemental oxygen or not, a pulse oximetry monitor is an excellent tool for measuring oxygen saturation and helping to maintain a safe and normal oxygen level for you. In fact, along with blood pressure, pulse, respirations and temperature, oxygen saturation is now considered to be the fifth vital sign in many institutions.[13]

A pulse oximeter is a non-invasive device that measures the oxygen saturation of hemoglobin in the blood using red and infrared light. Because it is able to easily and rapidly detect changes in oxygen saturation, it can provide a warning to patients and health care providers alike of impending or existing hypoxemia.[13] For patients using supplemental oxygen, this can help them and their health care team learn when they need to use supplemental oxygen and when it is most effective for maintaining healthy oxygen levels. Patients who learn to use a pulse oximeter at home are better able to communicate a lack of oxygen in the body, symptoms that may result from low oxygen levels and the situations that seem to cause the low oxygen levels to their health care team. This can help both the patient and health care providers get a more accurate picture of the patient’s hypoxemic episodes, allowing health care providers to offer the best possible treatment solutions.

Normal oxygen saturation levels run between 95% and 100%, but it is typical for patients with lung disease to have a lower than normal oxygen level. However, even if it is typical for a patient, with a lack of oxygen in the body, symptoms will continue to progress. Regardless of what is normal for a patient, once oxygen saturation levels drop consistently to 88% and below at rest, a patient should be evaluated for supplemental oxygen therapy to help improve overall oxygen levels.[14]

What to Do if Oxygen Saturation Levels are Low

If you are not already using supplemental oxygen and you are experiencing symptoms of hypoxemia and/or low oxygen saturation levels, do not wait to contact your health care provider immediately. If you have low oxygen levels, you might want to see about being evaluated for long term oxygen therapy. Oxygen therapy is appropriate for improving your blood oxygen level and can be effective for many conditions that cause hypoxemia, COPD included.

If you are a current user of supplemental oxygen and you are experiencing symptoms of hypoxemia and/or low oxygen saturation levels, troubleshoot your oxygen equipment to make sure it is working correctly. It may be advisable to contact your oxygen provider first to ensure that you are checking your equipment correctly, or to get help doing so. If troubleshooting does not resolve your low oxygen levels and you are unable to maintain a normal oxygen level, contact your health care provider. You may need an adjustment in your oxygen dose or your current course of treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions: Low Oxygen Levels 

Are low oxygen levels a medical emergency?

While a low oxygen level, or hypoxemia, is a sign that something is wrong with your breathing or circulation, it is not always an emergency. When you experience a lack of oxygen in the body, symptoms will vary depending on the severity of your hypoxemia. Depending on your symptoms, and your overall health, you will need to take some kind of action to alleviate the low oxygen levels. This could include doing some breathing exercises, using supplemental oxygen if you have COPD or another lung disease, using rescue medication if you have asthma or seeking medical attention. If you use supplemental oxygen, you should also check your equipment to ensure that it is working correctly. If you are unsure of the cause of your low oxygen levels, contact your doctor as soon as possible. If you experience severe symptoms like sudden and severe shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat and fluid retention with shortness of breath and cough at high altitudes, cyanosis, incoherence or inability to move or speak normally, call 911.[15] If you suspect you could have COVID-19, call ahead and speak to a medical professional before going to the emergency room.

I’m on home oxygen, so why do I have a low oxygen level?

If you are on home oxygen, your doctor will prescribe the flow rate and amount of time they determine will provide a therapeutic amount of oxygen for you. Your doctor should indicate the correct oxygen levels for you throughout the day, though depending on your overall health, your levels may still be lower than what is typically healthy for most people. However, if your oxygen levels dip below what your doctor tells you your levels should be, you may need to make some adjustments. Make note of when your oxygen level goes down, as well as any specific activities or times of day that seem to cause a lower oxygen level. Then, try slowing down somewhat and practicing some breathing exercises when your oxygen levels dip below your normal range. If that does not resolve the lower levels, contact your doctor and your oxygen provider. Your equipment may need to be checked, your prescription may need to be adjusted or you may need to incorporate pulmonary rehabilitation or another treatment for your low oxygen levels.

What is a normal oxygen level?

When you measure your blood oxygen level, you will be measuring your oxygen saturation level. A medical professional will often use an arterial blood gas measurement (ABG for short), while a home oxygen saturation measurement is generally taken with a pulse oximeter (often called pulse ox for short). A doctor may use both. If you have a normal oxygen level, your ABG oxygen levels will typically fall somewhere between 80 and 100 millimeters of mercury. A normal oxygen level, when measured with a pulse ox, is typically between 95 and 100%. An ABG measurement below 80 millimeters of mercury, or a pulse ox below 95%, is considered low oxygen saturation. However, if you have a chronic lung disease, your oxygen levels may be different, so talk to your doctor about what a normal oxygen level is for you. 

What happens when oxygen levels are too low?

Your body needs oxygen to work properly, so if your oxygen levels are too low, your body may not work the way it is supposed to. In addition to difficulty breathing, you can experience confusion, dizziness, chest pain, headache, rapid breathing and a racing heart. If you begin to see blue-tinged nail beds, lips, skin or mucus membranes, that is a sign of cyanosis, which means your blood oxygen levels are dangerously low and could lead to respiratory failure. If you are experiencing shortness of breath and see blue discoloration, seek medical help immediately. 

How can you improve your oxygen levels?

The first and most important thing to do is to make sure that you are not doing anything to impede your body’s ability to absorb oxygen properly. That includes quitting smoking if you are still a smoker, avoiding exposure to secondhand smoke and other lung irritants and ensuring you are following treatment orders from your doctor for any condition that may impact your breathing or oxygen saturation. If you have done all of that and you are still experiencing low oxygen levels, your doctor will likely prescribe supplemental oxygen therapy. Oxygen therapy treatments provide you with a higher percentage of breathable oxygen, improving your oxygen absorption, easing symptoms and raising your oxygen levels. Oxygen therapy is extremely effective and safe when used as directed. Ask your doctor if oxygen therapy can help you maintain a normal oxygen level, and contact Inogen to find out more about how our oxygen therapy products can help you.  

Author: Deborah Leader RN, BSN, PHN



[1] Kent, Brian D, et al. “Hypoxemia in Patients with COPD: Cause, Effects, and Disease Progression.” International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Dove Medical Press, 14 Mar. 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3107696/.

[2] “Adult Non-ICU Care: Monitoring Delirium.” Critical Illness, Brain Dysfunction, and Survivorship (CIBS) Center, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Accessed 2 July 2020, www.icudelirium.org/medical-professionals/adult-non-icu-care-monitoring-delirium.

[3] “Diagnostic Tests for Euphoria.” Right Diagnosis, Healthgrades, Accessed 2 July 2020, www.rightdiagnosis.com/symptoms/euphoria/tests.htm.

[4] Doyle, Glynda Rees, and Jodie Anita McCutcheon. “5.4 Signs and Symptoms of Hypoxia.” Clinical Procedures for Safer Patient Care, BCcampus, 23 Nov. 2015, opentextbc.ca/clinicalskills/chapter/5-3-causes-of-hypoxemia-2/.

[5] Gotter, Ana. “What Does Shortness of Breath Feel Like?” Healthline, Healthline Media, 21 Apr. 2020, www.healthline.com/health/what-does-shortness-of-breath-feel-like.

[6] Felman, Adam. “Fainting: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 9 July 2019, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/182524#causes.

[7] Areza-Fegyveres, Renata, et al. “Cognition and Chronic Hypoxia in Pulmonary Diseases.” Dementia & Neuropsychologia, Associação De Neurologia Cognitiva e Do Comportamento, 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5619525/.

[8] Leader, Deborah. “An Overview of Hypoxemia.” Verywell Health, Verywell Health, 22 Mar. 2020, www.verywellhealth.com/understanding-hypoxemia-copd-914904.

[9] Fox, W. Christopher, et al. “Acute Hypoxemia Increases Cardiovascular Baroreceptor Sensitivity in Humans.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 1 Sept. 2006, academic.oup.com/ajh/article/19/9/958/146284.

[10] Eldridge, Lynne. “Hypoxia Can Lead to Oxygen Starvation of the Tissues.” Verywell Health, Verywell Health, 27 Sept. 2019, www.verywellhealth.com/hypoxia-types-symptoms-and-causes-2248929.

[11] Leader, Deborah. “Secondary Polycythemia Symptoms and Treatment.” Verywell Health, Verywell Health, 20 Nov. 2019, www.verywellhealth.com/secondary-polycythemia-copd-complications-914682.

[12] Pierson, DJ. “Pulse Oximetry Versus Arterial Blood Gas Specimens in Long-Term Oxygen Therapy.” Lung, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1990, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2117192/.

[13] “Clinical Use of Pulse Oximetry. Pocket Reference.” International COPD Coalition, International COPD Coalition, 2010, www.moh.gov.sy/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=lN1Ta1BTqw0%3D&portalid=0&language=ar-YE.

[14] Pilcher, Janine, and Richard Beasley. “Acute Use of Oxygen Therapy.” Australian Prescriber, NPS MedicineWise, 1 June 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4653960/.

[15] “Hypoxemia (Low Blood Oxygen) When to See a Doctor.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 1 Dec. 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/hypoxemia/basics/when-to-see-doctor/sym-20050930.

Additional sources

Considine, Julie. “Emergency Assessment of Oxygenation.” Acute Care Testing, Radiometer Medical, Jan. 2007, acutecaretesting.org/en/articles/emergency-assessment-of-oxygenation.

Holland, Kimberly. “Is My Blood Oxygen Level Normal?” Healthline, Healthline Media, Updated 27 Sept. 2019, www.healthline.com/health/normal-blood-oxygen-level#oxygen-levels.

“Peripheral Cyanosis: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 18 Sept. 2019, www.healthline.com/health/peripheral-cyanosis#causes.

Silva, Joana Cavaco. “Low and Normal Blood Oxygen Levels: What to Know.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 28 Jan. 2020, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321044.


98 thoughts on “Low Oxygen Symptoms: Signs You May Not Be Getting Enough Oxygen”

  1. Avatar britteney says:

    i get dizzy and short of breath

    1. Avatar Andy says:

      I have exact same problem. Got any answers?

      1. Inogen Inogen says:

        Hi Andy & Britteney, Since we are not your primary care doctor we can not give you medical advice. There are a variety of reasons why you might feel dizzy or short of breath. We recommend that you reach out to your primary care doctor so that he or she may evaluate you.

      2. Avatar Denver says:

        Hello Andy and Brittney, I have been researching the effects of dehydration and it seems that these symptoms can be orientated to dehydration. But I can not legally give you medical advice, I only recommend that you look more into it and tell you doctor.

  2. Avatar glinda emery says:

    my muscles in my legs arms fingers start to cramp is this normal

  3. Avatar Ann Roy Rogers says:

    i just tested my oxygen tester and I was at 78 and had a headache I did not have my oxygen on but needed to know how do you know when it is getting to low. I have emphysema fibrosis but do not know the symptoms on how to tell if I am low and do not have my meter with me

    1. Avatar Nicos Panayiotou says:

      Do airlines carry emergency oxygen if required?

      1. Inogen Inogen says:

        Hi Nicos, Yes if you are taking a commercial airplane your airplane will be equipped with emergency oxygen in case of an emergency.

  4. Avatar bob says:

    does smoking make your blood oxygen level drop ?

    1. Web Admin Web Admin says:

      Please read our blog post about Safe Oxygen Levels. Long-term smokers frequently do have low oxygen saturation levels. The blog post will give you insight into oxygen levels overall. – https://www.inogen.com/blog/safe-oxygen-levels/

    2. Avatar Raajith says:

      yes, our lungs cant work on for cent percent output, afterall smoking causes many respiratory problems and intercept with the oxygen intake process.

  5. Avatar Rachel Dawson says:

    Please could I have an information kit sent to me, as my mother has been told she has low oxygen levels in her blood yesterday, and I need to know all I can to help her

    1. Web Admin Web Admin says:

      Hi Rachel, Thank you for your interest. A Sales Representative will contact you shortly via email.

  6. Avatar marlene says:

    I too would appreciate an information kit… I was told I have low oxygen levels at night 21.9% of my sleep time is below 90% .

    1. Web Admin Web Admin says:

      Hi Marlene, Thank you for your interest. A Sales Representative will contact you shortly via email.

  7. Avatar Muz says:

    I've been told I have low oxygen levels in my blood when I was sent to the cardio repertory department. I am due surgery for herniated discs in my neck in a few weeks. What does this all mean & should I be worried about it??

    1. Web Admin Web Admin says:

      Hi Muz, Since we are not your primary care doctor, we cannot give you medical advice. We recommend you reach out to your primary care doctor and consult with them.

  8. Avatar cynthia lee says:

    whats happening when I take in air but not getting it all out?

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Cynthia, I think what you're asking is what happens to the oxygen that is inhaled but not released when you exhale. Oxygen helps move nutrients through your bloodstream. The oxygen level in your blood can be measured using a blood test known as an arterial blood gas (ABG) study. For more information on ABG studies, please visit: https://www.inogen.com/blog/normal-oxygen-levels/

  9. Avatar Jacqueline Deans says:

    Could you please send me more information on low blood oxygen. I have been told recently I have a low count and I have some of the systems.

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Jacqueline, Please fill out the form on our home page: https://www.inogen.com/ and we'll answer any questions you may have on oxygen therapy.

  10. Avatar Kathy Smith says:

    To much or to little oxygen can it cause swelling of the face and and cant stay awake ???

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Kathy, If you have COPD, daytime sleepiness could be due to hypercapnia, or high carbon dioxide levels in the blood. Facial swelling could be caused by a number of things, including an allergic reaction, eye infection, tooth infection, sinus infection, and Cushing's syndrome. Have you been told you snore at night? If so, you may have obstructive sleep apnea which is associated with daytime sleepiness too. Much more information is needed to assess the situation and since we are not your primary care doctor we recommend you contact him/her for a diagnosis.

  11. Avatar Wendy says:

    My PFT is normal, no sign of emphysema or asthma. But, the letter I received from my pulmonologist stated that I have a pretty significant problem in oxygenating my cells. My SaO2 is generally between 92-97. I have so many symptoms it is hard to determine if they are all due to the fact that I do not have O2 in my bloodstream. I have not had a chance to discuss with my doctor yet. Please advise a possible diagnosis.

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Wendy, Since we are not your primary care doctor we can not give you a medical diagnosis. We recommend you contact your primary care doctor for a diagnosis. O2 saturation levels between 95-100% are considered normal and you're running just a little low of that range. This could be due to a number of reasons, including obesity, which is commonly overlooked. You mention that think that you do not have oxygen in your blood stream. Everyone has oxygen in their blood stream. You may just be a little low sometimes. Again we recommend that you contact your primary care doctor who can order additional lab work to be done and can refer you to a specialist near you.

  12. Avatar Jonna Ilarde says:

    my office is enclosed. i am suffering from clogged ear from time to time, especially when stressed. is there something to do with lack of oxygen?

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Ho Joanna, We recommend that you go to your primary care doctor and discuss your symptoms with him or her. They will be able to diagnosis your symptoms and discuss treatment options.

  13. Avatar LORENE WILLIAMS says:


    I have a question. I am on oxygen all the time. I started getting symptoms that feels like I have a fever but when checked I do not. Some days it is all day long. Some days it is 2 or 3 times. I take tylenol and it goes away. I am on the Tilogy machine that hooks up to my oxygen. I have been to my Pulmonary doctor and she said it was the humidifier hooker to my machine. I unpluged it and still have the symptoms. I have also been to my MD. They can't find the reason. Could it be that I am not getting enough oxygen through the night or the setting are wrong on the machine? I have already did the overnight test . Do you have any ideas if so please help.

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Lorene, In cases like this, it is often good to consult a secondary pulmonologist. A secondary doctor may be able to diagnosis your symptoms.

  14. Avatar Karol says:

    I have congestive heart failure. I feel I don't have enough air. Dr. gave me a test, walk 6 minutes on a flat service in an air conditioned office, pulse ometer read 88. My problem is when I am out doing shopping, air quality is bad, trying to bend pickup things from the floor, easy basic house work, getting from my car to a store, car to my ramp with an incline to my front door.
    I need to stop and rest maybe 4-6 times to continue. I become very out of breath, pressure around heart, my legs feel tight, my son has to get the wheel chair to bring me into the house. My doctor says I don't need oxygen, this she determined by a 6 min walk in air conditioned building. My CHF doc says she does not think lack of air is do to my CHF (left side) now they tell me there are changes to my right side of heart. I am completely weak an incapable of any basic tasks, like bathing in a tub, the list goes on and on. They won't even let me try oxygen for a couple of days to see if it helps. What can I do??

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Karol, In cases like this, it is often good to get a second opinion. A secondary doctor may be able to diagnosis your symptoms.

  15. Avatar Mona says:

    We have moderate air quality alerts due to fires. It has een over a week. I am using my inhaler and flonase. Been having dizziness and sweating. Should I contact my Dr?

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Mona, Yes it is always a good idea to contact your doctor when you are experiencing abnormal symptoms. A doctor will be able to determine whether or not your symptoms are related to the fires or to a medical condition.

  16. Avatar subroto kumar das says:


    This is Subroto kumar Das
    I have irregular Yawns & sometimes before yawning I feel uncomfortable .

    please let me know any suggestion you have

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Subroto, It is always a good idea to contact your primary care doctor when you are experiencing abnormal symptoms. A doctor will be able to diagnosis your symptoms and prescribe appropriate treatment.

  17. Avatar Beverly Sharon says:

    I have been told I have low oxygen levels during sleep. During the day my oxygen levels are good. However, at times my toes and fingers turn bluish even in the daytime. Is this from lack of oxygen at night?

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Beverly, It is always a good idea to contact your primary care doctor when you are experiencing abnormal symptoms. A doctor will be able to diagnosis your symptoms and prescribe appropriate treatment.

  18. Avatar Carolyn Hargrove says:

    have Copd and enphazima, last 2 weeks with blood pressure spikes will go from 168/73 then drop within 2 to 3 hours to 128/68 some mornings ,balance is off, dull headache, head fells like I'm in a fog, at times heart rate is high but blood pressure is normal, had a blood panel done was good 2 wks ago blood pressure spiked to 193/100 went to er magnesium was at 1 thought that was the answer, it wasn't been a week today still the same, any suggestions on what to ask my Dr, and yes I'm a smoker

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Carolyn, We encourage you to tell your doctor about the symptoms you just described here. Do you experience blood pressure spikes or headaches while exercising or are you experiencing these symptoms while you sit? Make sure to let your doctor know the circumstances surrounding your symptoms and ask if there is any situations (driving, exercising, etc.) that you should avoid.

  19. Avatar Cheese Lungs says:

    Yo anyone know anything else about this, like if congestion could cause this? The first time I got bronchitis, I thought I was okay; I woke up and went to a doctor's appointment (that I had scheduledlong before this), feeling sick but okay enough to function. When I got there, one of the nurses said my oxygen is too low for them to let me go and they basically held me hostage for 2 rounds of breathing treatments, which was basically like inhaling really bad perfume. I no longer have health insurance and recently caught bronchitis. It developed over the past 2 days and I'm already coughing up macaroni. I don't know how to really tell if my oxygen is going down like last time and trying to figure out what to do >_>

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi – We're sorry to hear about your bronchitis diagnosis. Although you do not have insurance, it is important to see a doctor so that you can be prescribed appropriate treatment. Regarding your oxygen levels, you can test yourself at home using a Pulse Oximeter. For more information on Pulse Oximeters, please visit: https://www.inogen.com/product/pulse-oximeter/

  20. Avatar Philip says:

    I visited the hospital the other day and they put the SP02 sensor on my finger. It was reading between 94 and 95%. I seem to be borderline and i don't take oxygen, what can i do to make my readings better. I have bought a cheap finger sensor off eBay and it shows 95 whereas everyone else in the family i test is 98-99.

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Philip, Normal oxygen levels are typically between 95-100% so you are correct when you say you are right on the borderline. Pulse oximeters are slightly less accurate than a arterial blood gas (ABG) study. An ABG study would need to be conducted by your doctor in order to fully determine your oxygen saturation level. We recommend you consult your primary care doctor and have he or she do a full exam so that they can diagnosis your symptoms. In the meantime, try some of our breathing exercises for COPD: https://www.inogen.com/blog/copd-breathing-exercises/

  21. Avatar kimberly hixson says:

    I have trouble catching a full breath of air. I have episodes where my heart will begin to beat heavily and also the pulse will begin beating intenseky beating rapidly. I get light headly daily, i"m constanly feeling fatiged. I"m also noticing a lack of memory about current things i"ve done, such as i can't recall something i just finished doing five minutes ago. also my long term memory is being affected. I'm always cold. I don't suffer from frequent headaches but, at the few times i do the pain is horrible. I've felt such an intense pain in my chest, that will bring me to tears. i"m only 32 years old. could you offer any suggestions?

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Kimberly, We're sorry to hear about your symptoms. However, since we are not your primary care doctor and we do not have access to your medical records, we are not legally allowed to give you any medical advice. Have you contacted your primary care doctor yet to discuss your symptoms? He or she has access to your medical history and will be able to run tests to determine what the cause may be.

    2. Avatar Ylena says:

      Hi Kimberly, you may have resolved this by now but ask your doctor about Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome(POTS)

  22. Avatar Nur says:

    I have most the symptoms described. I thought that it was normal to feel fatigue and short of breath until I met the ENT specialist and have a CAT scan. It seems that I my airway is obstructed plus sinus problem. I had a minor surgery to correct the airway. Now, I no longer cough in my sleep and I breathe better. Please meet your ENT to check further if you have symptoms.

  23. Avatar Douglas Hogan says:

    Low Oxygen levels can also be indicative of Pulmonary Hypertension. Since this diagnosis is often overlooked by pulmonary specialists, it might be wise to at least ask your Pulmonologist about it.

  24. Avatar Ruth Pappamihiel says:

    was wondering if my symptoms when I get up in the am could be from lack of oxygen during the night , this am I seemed very dis-oriented and unstable movements, I do have slight COPD, and 2 stents in my heart. I do have app. with drs, next month. Thanks for any help.

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Ruth, As we mention in the blog post above, lack of coordinated movements, dizziness, and disorientation are symptoms of low oxygen. We hope this information is helpful and that your doctors appointment goes well next month.

      1. Avatar Ruth Pappamihiel says:

        Thanks, was hoping for more, maybe lady your mind is making you crazy!

  25. Avatar cindy says:

    my oxygen level was 88 at the er -was wondering if beer etc has any thing to do with this

  26. Avatar Tari says:

    I have been exposed to carbon monoxide due to a leak in my car's exhaust system. Lots of dizziness and felling out of it. Went to my primary dr and they had me get a blood test. My O2 saturated Ven is at 47.6% which is quite a bit lower than the low end. They do not feel the need to pursue any further. The Carboxyhemoglobin was 0.1

  27. Avatar CHLOE says:


    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Chloe, Please consult your primary care doctor as they are familiar with your medical history.

  28. Avatar dede Pittman says:

    I get agitated and shakey when o2 is low….Is this normal? I have copd and stage IV lung cancer.

    I have an Inogen o2 portable machine I use when I need it which is becoming more and more frequent. My pulsate rate is 3.

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Dede, Confusion and dizziness which are symptoms of low blood oxygen may cause you to feel agitated and shakey. You mention that you only use your portable oxygen concentrator when you need it which is becoming more and more frequent. Are you using your Inogen portable oxygen concentrator as prescribed by your doctor? It sounds like you may need to see your doctor again soon, as he or she may need to adjust your oxygen prescription. Please consult your primary care doctor immediately.

  29. Avatar diviya says:

    I fell all the symptoms what can I do to make myself better?

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Diviya, If you are experiencing low oxygen symptoms and/or low oxygen saturation levels, please contact your health care provider immediately.

  30. Avatar Richard Veaks says:

    You might want to get checked for Alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency. I have it also and it caused my emphysema and COPD, my oxygen levels get pretty low at times, causing headaches, dizziness, constant yawning like 75 to 80 times a day which increases my headaches to migraines. Consult a Pulmonologist to have your blood drawn and tested.

  31. Avatar D.J. Henson says:

    I had bronchitis last wk, and was given a. Steroid & Levaquin shot & Rx's for both. X 7 days. I have Copd. Neither helped-I went to my respiratory Dr, who prescribed Home 02-2.5 liters, & Nebulizer RX's. My body feels numb & tingly, and my head feels cloudy. Is this normal with taking additional O2? Will it subside?

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi DJ, There are a variety of factors including your age and your full medical history that could affect how you're feeling. Please consult your primary care doctor and ask him or her to reevaluate your current oxygen therapy solution. Your doctor may need to adjust your oxygen prescription.

  32. Avatar Stacy says:

    About 4 years ago I was said to have COPD emphemzima. Was given nebulisor, albuterol,steriods was in hospital about a week. I was never sent to a pulmonary DR and never continued medicene. A few days ago I had swelling of ankles and red rash above both legs. Went to hospital oxygen level was 82-87. Wanted to keep me but I would not stay. Did not seem concerned about rash. I have noticed my back and arms are getting this smooth red rash like a sunburn. Any chance this redness has anything to do with COPD. Back on same meds and a smoker. About the only symtoms is shortness of breath at times not bad.

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Stacy, There are a few symptoms of COPD but red rashes are not one of them. However a few of the symptoms you mentioned, like swollen limbs and shortness of breath are warning signs of a COPD exacerbation. Although you may be feeling better, it is important to understand that an exacerbation of COPD can also lead to further health complications. Please work with your primary care doctor to monitor and treat your COPD as you do not want a COPD exacerbation to occur again. For more information on COPD exacerbations, please visit: https://www.inogen.com/blog/understanding-copd-exacerbations/

  33. Avatar Larry O says:

    My wife was recently hospitalized with a pulmonary embolism diagnosis. She spent 11 days in the hospital on oxygen and on a blood thinner. Now that she is home she is on oxygen (2liters)via a concentrator while we are at home (she had already been using it at night with her CPAP) and a portable O2 bottle when we leave home. After a visit to her pulmonologist we were given permission to experiment at home with removing the O2 for short periods. We have found that if she is exerting herself, O2 levels stay at 94% or higher. However while she is just sitting or laying down it will drop to 90% or slightly lower.
    It seems to me that the clots must be dissolving which could explain why her breathing is better while moving. What we’d like to know is how much longer should we expect for her to need the O2 when going away from home?

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Larry, Usually a pulmonary embolism is a treatable short term disease however depending on your wife's age and health history it could be days to weeks until she has fully recovered. Additionally because we are not your wife's primary care doctor we are not able to say how long or if your wife will fully recover and will not need supplemental oxygen. Please continue to work with your wife's primary care doctor as he or she is most familiar with your wife's condition.

  34. Avatar robert lipton says:

    what is a low o2 level at 6500 feet where i live

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Robert, Here are a few resources you can use to determine O2 levels at various heights: https://www.wildsafe.org/resources/outdoor-safety-101/altitude-safety-101/high-altitude-oxygen-levels/

  35. Avatar Thelma Alicia Hollis-Nutting says:

    Hello, I was told that as a result of low oxygen, both my father and I have dark faces. We identify as black but our cultural background is extensive. I am a combination of, of course, black but also, indigenous ( Black Feet Indian), French, German, and Asian. All of these ethnicities are represented in one form or other in myself and my father. My point is our complexion over 90% of our body is fairly light ( in contrast to facial color), but depending on our health at the time, our face will darken or become lighter regardless of exposure to the sun. This gives the appearance of having dark skin. Body color doesn't change as significantly and we are more than likely susceptible to getting a sunburn than an actual tan. The difference in skin color is very noticeable. I would prefer if I was closer to one shade than the " two-tone" complexion I have lived with all of my life. I am often asked about the makeup (foundation)people believe I am wearing- when actually I don't wear any. I have a niece who when she is in crisis due to asthma will become dark in her face; especially under her eyes. People who are aware of our health issues will point out the fact that are face has become dark and that a lack of oxygen is causing our facial color to change. I 've read that people other than black will exhibit a bluish hue but no mention of how color is effected in blacks. Both my father and I have sleep apnea, and I have been diagnosed as having COPD.
    We each get very little restful sleep and suffer from sleep deprivation and chronic fatigue. We have other health issues that require medications which may contribute to our breathing and/or skin color. Can you research this and share your thought, observations or findings? Thank you

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Thelma, Was your primary care doctor the person that told you this? Have you consulted a specialist or other medical professional for a second opinion? If so, did your primary care doctor or a specialist use the term, "cyanosis" in your diagnosis? Cyanosis is a bluish color to the skin usually due to a lack of oxygen in the blood. We are currently doing some research and preparing a blog post around the term cyanosis and we hope to share it soon. Please visit our blog again in the future: https://www.inogen.com/oxygen-education/

  36. Avatar Dae-Jun says:

    Hi, so um my friends is having, shortness of breath, rapid breathing and dizziness everyday. Her oxygen level is at 62. I'm getting worried what should I tell her to do or do about it.

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Dae-Jun, If you or a loved one experience any of the symptoms listed above, please contact a health care provider as soon as possible.

  37. Avatar Alice says:

    Why would one have oxygen levels in the high 90’s that drops to 86 just moderately walking? Heart and lungs are good, Pulmonary tests are good. Not obese. Could low adrenals enter in?

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Alice, Age, health history, and altitude may explain why someone might experience a drop in oxygen levels.

  38. Avatar Tina Poeche says:

    I do have COPD and have had 8 heart attacks and am diabetic. Yesterday I was dizzy and confused, at bed time my feet began to cramp severely for seriously 3 hours. Only relief is when I stood up. Then my thigh began to cramp up. I am thinking I have a oxygen issue. What relief can you give for the cramps at the time.

  39. Avatar Doreen M Crincoli says:

    Is it normal for you oxygen levels to change while sleeping as well and exercising? I have had lung CT and it was fine. I have found that since my diastasis repair my breathing has been compromised. I can't seem to get help for the problem. I have seen 3 doctors and no answer.

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Doreen, Thank you for your comments. Please read this article regarding Transient Nocturnal Desaturation on our blog. I would seek further medical advice if you feel that your breathing is compromised. https://www.inogen.com/blog/transient-nocturnal-desaturation/. I hope you start to feel better soon.

  40. Avatar Richard says:

    I have had a HRCT of the chest and no abnormalities. Alog with a spirometer within normal limits. Is it safe to say that I am having anxiety when it comes to my symptoms?

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Richard, If you feel like something is abnormal, I'd suggest that you continue to explore why this is occurring. I suggest you speak to a medical professional that can refer you appropriately.

  41. Avatar Sal S says:

    If I stop breathing briefly during sleep, what typically would happen to my O2 sats? How low do they go if you're not breathing at all?

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Dear Sal, CPAP is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure which maintains an open airway for people who tend to either stop breathing, or breath shallow during deep sleep. CPAP keep the airway open and forces oxygen into the airway during these periods during sleep. It is important to use the CPAP consistently to prevent periods of sleep apnea. Oxygen saturation is the measurement of the oxygen content that is circulating in the blood stream at any given moment. Apnea (lack of breathing) can deplete the saturation of oxygen very quickly, and can lead to death, or damage to the heart.

  42. Avatar Sal says:

    Appreciate the reply, thank you. Can you describe the correlation between the apnea and O2 sats, though, i.e. if I had an 02 sat reading of say 92 while sleeping, how low would that # go if I stopped breathing completely for say, 30 seconds?

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Sal,
      Our best advice is to get a sleep study to gather that information. Best of luck!

    2. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Sal, We are not trained medical professionals, but you should obtain a sleep test to receive that information.

  43. Avatar Rizky says:

    How blue does my fingers or earlobes or lips have to be?

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Rizky,
      Blue fingers or earlobes are not good signs. Have you been checked out by your doctor? I suggest you discuss this with your doctor just to make sure.

  44. Avatar Ricky Brown says:

    I've had copd for three years now but lately I've been experiencing tingling in different parts of my body and front of head also have pain around my right lung and in through my back seems as though i can't focus on things

    Sometimes I loose my breath just like a baby does I labour breathing when I do minimal activity should I seek help from a health care professional.

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Dear Ricky, We absolutely suggest you visit your physician. These symptoms could be related to a disease process that has not been diagnosed by your physician. In some cases early treatment is greatly effective.

  45. Avatar Vicky says:

    Can I put this out there, your company is nice to even reply to some of these inane questions. Listen up, this company is not free doctors, they canNOT diagnosis or treat! I just don't understand people asking an oxygen company how to treat their medical problems. They are NOT doctors, they just design and sell products they help doctors give better care!!!

  46. Avatar Gabby says:

    I have a majority of these symptoms, and I’m diabetic, so my blood glucose levels (or BG) can cause some of these if not in range, but I still get these symptoms often even when my BG has been in range for a large or extended period of time. I’d talk to my doctor, parents, family in general, or close friends about it, but I just never talk to them about this stuff. I know that the shortness of breath and rapid breathing can be a result of anxiety, which I have social anxiety, yet I don’t tell anyone, not even doctors or parents, but it’s pretty obvious, trust me on that, so I’m on no medications for the social anxiety. But even if I’m around no-one and my BG is in range for an extended period of time I still get a majority of these symptoms. I also have insomnia, but I’m not on any medications to help me sleep or deal with that either. Do you have any suggestions, that is, other than talking to someone about it and seeking help with these symptoms, such as seeing a doctor? This is because, I’ll try to say something to a doctor or really just about anyone, and than nothing comes out of my mouth except silence, so I’ve already tried, but I just can’t I guess. A lot of the time, or a majority of it, if I’m hurt, in pain, mentally or physically, I just hide it, I once rolled my ankle, which according to the hospital I went to for it, is worse than a break, well, I tried to walk on it, even though I fell a few times, I still tried walking on it, and hurt it even worse, and was on crutches for about two or three months, yet I just hid my pain the whole time. Anyway, do you have any suggestions other than seeking medical advice and help from a doctor or anyone else?

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Gabby, Thank you for sharing your struggles with us. Perhaps this blog article will help you with the anxiety and manage your stress. Breathing Exercises for COPD. https://www.inogen.com/blog/copd-breathing-exercises/
      Take care!

  47. Avatar Rebecca A Logue says:

    During back surgery the surgeon "nicked" (his word) something not part of the surgery and couldn't get the bleeding stopped very quickly. He told me he was about to transfuse me when he got the bleeding stopped. He later told me that, if he'd known how abnormally slowly my blood ox level would come up he would have.
    My blood ox level took five days to return to normal. I don't remember much of those five days, my mom telling me how to eat: pick up your fork; put some of this on it; put it in your mouth; chew; swallow.
    I remember once trying to get up to pee, but don't remember the outcome. I remember seeing my dad's legs from the knees down when he sat in a chair. My friend tells me she & I and my IV pole walked down the hall and the entire time, I was telling her a poem I'd written–long nonsensical rambling–and I hadn't written it.
    On the 5th day I felt normal, but they wouldn't discharge me until my blood ox level was 100%.

    My neurologist believes that the lack of oxygen to my brain causes the non-epileptic seizures I now have, which started about hmmmm…..
    three to six months after this episode.
    Is my neurologist right?

  48. Avatar Leo says:

    I have restless leg syndrome. Can a low oxygen level impact this problem?

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Leo,
      Low oxygen can cause a variety of muscle issues, you should consult your physician about your restless legs. Take care!

  49. Avatar Gerri Hale says:

    I was just seen in hospital and have been diagnosed with COPD. They told me that one test showed that I was not getting enough oxygen to my muscles. I have been dealing with a lot of cramping and pain in my muscles. Is this why.

  50. Avatar Stacey says:

    I have low oxygen level upon exertion or when I am ambulatory but my PFT is normal. I have extremely low Iron and Ferritin levels so I do not produce enough iron and protein in my red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout my body therefore I need supplemental oxygen. It goes back to normal once I am sitting but I do need it when I sleep to.

  51. Avatar Dawn says:

    I’m on 6 liters continuous flow oxygen. Is there a portable concentrator that would meet my needs? Also, are low back cramps and gut cramps a sign of low oxygen saturation if they start occurring while I’m short of breath and disoriented due to
    low oxygen levels??

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Dawn,
      Thank you for reaching out to us. We have a stationary unit that would suffice, but all of our POC's are pulse dose technology. The Inogen One G5 has flow settings up to 6, but if you are on continuous, it might not be a good fit. You could always try it for a 30 day trial ($99 restocking fee). As for the question regarding your low oxygen saturation symptoms, please reach out to your doctor for advice on this. I hope you begin to feel better soon.

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