Cerebral hypoxia: What are the effects?

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Cerebral hypoxia is characterized by lack of oxygen to the brain. Various conditions can result to hypoxia including carbon monoxide poisoning, stroke, drowning, heart dysfunction and injuries at birth.

Take note that the brain cells are sensitive to hypoxia and can rapidly die due to the lack of oxygen. Cerebral hypoxia can disrupt the functioning of the brain, impair the brain cells as well as result to death. The deprivation of oxygen might be mild which causes a steady onset of symptoms or severe which triggers rapid changes.

Potential for coma

Once oxygen is significantly inadequate or lacking for an extended period, the body ceases to function and becomes comatose. If comatose, the individual is unconscious and does not respond to stimuli such as pain or noise. The individual could not be awakened and could not accomplish any voluntary actions.

If the oxygen supply is restored, the individual might improve enough to awaken from the coma but lasting brain damage has already occurred.

If the brain does not receive enough oxygen, the heart rate increases to supply more oxygen.

Behavioral, cognitive and personality changes

It is important to note that the components of personality are found in the frontal lobe of the brain and if cerebral hypoxia damages the region, personality changes can occur.

Behavioral and cognitive changes can also occur after damage linked with hypoxia. These changes usually include poor judgement, diminished attention and memory loss.

Motor skills

An indication that is often documented with cerebral hypoxia is loss of motor abilities or correct coordination. Remember that the cerebellum oversees balance and coordinated movement. Death of the cells can result to jerkiness and other motor issues.

Heart rate

If the brain does not receive enough oxygen, the heart rate increases to supply more oxygen. If hypoxia is severe, the heart could not comply with the demand and eventually fail, resulting to a heart attack.


The level of oxygen in the brain can oftentimes drop suddenly which results to the shutting down of the non-essential bodily processes to allow the vital functions of the brain to continue. This results to fainting.

Signs such as lightheadedness, feeling of warmth and nausea might occur before fainting. If the individual faints regularly, a doctor should be seen if there is a serious underlying cause.

Brain death

The outcome of severe hypoxia if not reversed is brain death. It is important to note that brain death is characterized by coma, absence of response to pain, lack of all cranial nerve reflexes, apnea or failure to breathe independently.

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