Scientists have finally discovered the reason behind a bizarre condition known as ‘happy hypoxia’ seen in COVID-19 patients. A rare case scenario is seen in COVID-19 patients which have shocked scientists all over the world. Normally, our blood is 90-95% saturated with oxygen. But in the severe cases of COVID-19, the blood oxygen saturation plummets to 50%. Doctors noticed that even with such a low level of oxygen in the blood, some patients have no difficulty in breathing. This condition is typically known as ‘happy hypoxia.’
A study published by the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine has revealed, that the reason behind this could be the way our brain responds to low oxygen levels or hypoxia. This discovery is groundbreaking because the results from this study could help prevent unnecessary intubation and ventilation of serious COVID-19 patients in the second wave of coronavirus.
According to a study authored by Dr. Martin Tobin, professor, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, a pulse oximeter is not 100% accurate all the time. The device works well when detecting high levels of oxygen in a patient, but gives a false reading in the cases when the oxygen levels are low. Hence, he claimed that oxygen levels in more than half of the COVID-19 patients could be higher than what is detected by the pulse oximeter.
Furthermore, the study claims that in most of the COVID-19 patients, the brain does not react to hypoxia unless the oxygen levels are extremely low which leads to shortness of breath. In addition to this, most COVID-19 patients also have low levels of carbon dioxide in the blood, which makes up for low oxygen levels.
Dr. Martin Tobin and his team claim that the condition of happy hypoxia can also be attributed to the way a patient’s body reacts to the loss of sense of smell. This is the most common symptom of coronavirus and is seen in 2/3rd of the patients across the world. He further added, that the peculiarities of coronavirus which most scientists and doctors find baffling, can be understood well by applying the long-held principles of respiratory physiology.
This study is a major feat achieved by scientists at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. However, scientists believe that further investigations are needed to understand the pathophysiology of ‘happy hypoxia’ or ‘silent hypoxia’ better. We are certainly buoyant about the fact that our scientists will be able to find the answers to the deadly coronavirus soon and the world will again be a happy place to live in!