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Pulse Oximeters

Pulse oximeters are medical devices that combines two functions into one: measuring pulse rates and the oxygen saturation level in body tissue.

Some uses include:

  • detecting hypoxia (lack of oxygen) by pilots and mountain climbers. Hypoxia can cause vision impairment, headaches, confusion, and fatigue, and if it is severe enough, unconsciousness and death. At higher altitudes, blood oxygen saturation decreases, since there is less oxygen available in the air. Hypoxia, defined as a deficiency of oxygen reaching the tissues of the body, is now a risk. For healthy people, the effects of less oxygen usually kick in at 12,500 feet. Health and lifestyle factors like drinking, smoking, age and weight gain can amplify the effects of reduced oxygen content, revealing symptoms of hypoxia at altitudes as low as 4,000 feet.
  • monitoring for medical conditions that cause your blood to carry too little oxygen.

Pulse oximeters are non-invasive and work by focusing red and infrared

light on a thin portion of the body, such as fingertips and ear lobes. They then calculate the fluctuations in the light signal to determine pulse rate, and compare the absorption of the red and infrared light signals to calculate blood oxygen saturation.

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