Pulse Finger Oximeter—Why did the Doctor Tell Me to Get One?
You might go an appointment with your doctor and come home with advice to buy and use a pulse finger oximeter. Before going out to buy the first one you can find (at a medical supply store or very probably a well-stocked pharmacy/drug store), it will be helpful to learn about this device, how it works and how it can help you. Read here for the main points to think about.
It is most likely that your doctor has found in you a medical condition that has produced an instability in the amount of oxygen that your blood carries. Since this is a crucial aspect of health, it makes sense to monitor and keep track of your situation and using a pulse finger oximeter is an easy way to do it. It’s easy, quick, small and light so taking it everywhere is a no-brainer. Almost all pulse finger oximeters are user-friendly and easy to use with very simple steps. It’s just as convenient to have a pulse finger oximeter at home as a blood pressure cuff or a blood glucose monitor would be, and just as significant.
When a person has one or more of several symptoms, such as light-headedness or dizziness, weakness, a bluish cast to lips or fingertips, rapid heart rate, rapid breathing rate, chest tightness, confusion or a change in mental condition, decreased level of consciousness, or headaches that reflect a low concentration of oxygen in the arterial blood supply, it is said to indicate hypoxemia, meaning a low blood level of oxygen. This can happen normally for brief periods, for example during strenuous physical exercise—use of a pulse finger oximeter would not be indicated in these cases. Examples of medical conditions that can cause these symptoms include: emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or other lung disease, pneumonia, blood clots in the lungs, low cardiac output, anemia, shock, sleep apnea, and some medicines may slow the breathing rate enough in some people to lower the oxygen saturation. Although some athletes may want to monitor their own oxygen concentrations, usually people do not need to do so because their oxygen concentration will quickly return to normal. However, there are many illnesses or conditions that can benefit from intermittent monitoring by use of a pulse finger oximeter.
Benefits to Using a Pulse Finger Oximeter
Being able to carry a portable pulse finger oximeter when going about all one’s daily activities is a huge advance from having to go to a lab for frequent arterial blood gas tests. It conveys an opportunity to live a mostly normal life to those who might otherwise have to curtail many of their activities due to the need to be ready to head to a lab for testing. So, using an oximeter permits a person to make adjustments in activity level or other tweaks to daily life based on the monitoring done at home, in the car or at work. It’s obviously necessary to stay in reasonable communication with one’s care provider to report adverse results gained from using the oximeter that may require a change in regimen, including rest, activity level adjustment, medication changes or even the use of oxygen supplementation. Some models of pulse finger oximeter have the ability to store readings for later analysis or reporting to a physician. There are even applications being developed that would allow a connection between a pulse finger oximeter and a smartphone, so that results could be sent instantly to a caregiver.
The Pulse Oxygen Oximeter Provides Valuable Information Quickly and Easily
Two values are being measured by a pulse finger oximeter: both heart rate (also called pulse rate) and the concentration of oxygen in the hemoglobin of the arterial blood. The hemoglobin is the substance in a blood cell that binds oxygen to itself during breathing so that oxygen can be carried throughout the body to every cell. Many factors come into play that determine these values, so using a pulse finger oximeter is a convenient shorthand way to get an idea about the ability of the body to supply adequate oxygen for the amount of activity at a particular time. A doctor can determine which factors are in play and what needs to be done to optimize the person’s general health and ability to carry out the activities of daily living.
The concentration of oxygen is called the oxygen saturation level. It may also be called O2 saturation, O2 sat, pulse oxygenation, pulse ox or SpO2. It is reported by the pulse finger oximeter and expressed as a percentage with normal values at sea level ranging from around 96-99%. A value of 90% or below would generally be cause for serious concern and should be reported immediately, but variations may be normal for particular persons. Going suddenly to a higher altitude by 3000-5000 feet will lower an individual’s readings on the pulse finger oximeter because of lower atmospheric pressure in the air. If the higher elevation is attained gradually, or after a few days, the values will tend to stabilize at or close to the previous ones.
For an individual person, a consistent change of more than several percentage points ought to trigger a notification to that person’s physician. It is likely that symptoms of that change would be noticeable in how the person feels. If a user sees a lower oxygen saturation result than usual on the pulse finger oximeter, especially combined with the appearance or exacerbation of symptoms, an immediate decrease in activity level should follow to see if an improvement occurs; if not, medical aid may need to be summoned. People who have serious respiratory or cardiac conditions, among others, may usually have lower levels than the normal values mentioned above due to the lower efficiency of their bodies. Each person using a pulse finger oximeter should know his or her own usual reading and at which variations the managing caregiver needs to be notified. Many pulse finger oximeters can be set to make an audible alarm if the preset limits are exceeded.
Although most users of pulse finger oximeters are people with various medical conditions making it important to monitor oxygen saturation levels, there are some uses for people who do not have adverse medical conditions. Sometime athletes use pulse finger oximeters to help analyze their training regimens. Rock climbers, mountain climbers or other people going to higher altitudes than they are accustomed to may take pulse finger oximeters along to keep track of how they are reacting to the more physically stressful conditions. People embarking on significant exercise and energy outlays they are not used to may find a pulse finger oximeter very helpful to see if they are exerting themselves safely. Pilots of unpressurized planes may fly high enough that it makes sense to monitor their heart rates and respiratory conditions with a pulse finger oximeter so as not to get into situations that could affect their ability to fly safely; for example, changes in mentation. Whether or not the person you love has a medical condition or not, a great and unusual gift that shows your care and concern could be a pulse finger oximeter.