How do doctors diagnose hypoxemia?

To diagnose hypoxemia, your doctor will do a physical examination to listen to your heart and lungs. Abnormalities in these organs can be a sign of low blood oxygen. Your doctor may also check to see if your skin, lips, or fingernails look bluish.

Doctors use tests to check your oxygen levels, including:

  • Pulse oximetry: A sensor that slips over your finger measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. Pulse oximetry is painless and noninvasive. Many doctors use it routinely each time you visit.
  • Arterial blood gas test: A needle is used to take a blood sample from your artery to measure the levels of oxygen in your blood.
  • Other breathing tests: These might involve breathing into tubes that are connected to computers or other machines.

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