How Oximeters Help Diabetics
People with diabetes are 20 times more likely to experience peripheral arterial disease (PAD) than the average population. PAD is a condition in which there is a build-up of plaque in the arteries that carry blood to the organs, limbs and head. Plaque hardens and narrows the arteries over time which means that the flow of oxygen to vital tissues and organs becomes limited. Complications can include gangrene and amputation. Knowing whether or not the blood is sufficiently saturated with oxygen can help diabetics stay a step ahead of these debilitating problems. A pulse oximeter is an easy-to-use tool that can alert the patient or health care provider to low levels of oxygen in the blood, and help prevent dire complications from arterial disease in diabetics.
What Is a Pulse Oximeter?
A pulse oximeter is a clip-on device that may be attached to a finger. On one side is a source for both infrared and red light, which helps distinguish between oxygen-rich blood and oxygen-depleted blood as it pulses through the blood vessels. On the other side is a light detector with a microprocessor which compares and calculates the difference, resulting in a digital readout. Generally speaking, a reading of 96%-100% indicates blood that is sufficiently saturated with oxygen. Below 90% can be cause for concern.
Why Use a Pulse Oximeter?
Tissues that experience oxygen deprivation are susceptible to degradation. A pulse oximeter is a simple way to gauge if blood is saturated with enough oxygen to keep tissue healthy. There are a variety of advantages to using a finger pulse oximeter. They include:
• It is quick. Oxygen level displays immediately
• It is non-invasive
• Results are reproducible
• It is accurate
• It requires no expertise to use
How Does It Work?
A pulse oximeter simply clips on to your finger. An LED read out will show your results and any other display information. There are a variety of portable models with features such as one-button operation, automatic shut-off and low battery alert. For those requiring constant medical alerts, tabletop oximeters often allow constant monitoring and functions such as medical alarms to alert medical professionals when oxygen levels become dangerously low.
Why Measuring Oxygen Levels is Important to a Diabetic
Diabetes is a leading cause of leg amputation, chronic kidney failure, blindness, stroke and heart attack. A common symptom of diabetes is poor circulation. With diminished circulation, tissues fail to receive the oxygen necessary to stay vital. This situation can eventually lead to hypoxemia, or low oxygen saturation, leaving the diabetic vulnerable to the consequences of compromised tissue such as gangrene or amputation. A fingertip oximeter can quickly and easily measure oxygen saturation in the blood, helping patient and physician alike stay ahead of unwelcome developments.
When Is a Pulse Oximeter a Good Idea?
When a diabetic is experiencing symptoms of nerve damage, a pulse oximeter may be able to offer information that would be useful for heading off further impairment. Symptoms of low oxygen saturation and subsequent nerve damage may present as:
• Persistent feeling of "pins and needles"
• Leg pain when climbing stairs
• Muscle weakness in legs
• Bone and joint pain
• Numbness or a reduced ability to feel pain
• Cuts that are slow or hard to heal
Early Detection Is Best
While symptoms may not necessarily mean that there is actual nerve damage, early diagnosis and treatment help to control symptoms and prevent further problems down the road. A pulse oximeter effectively and instantly gauges a critical component of circulatory health. Measuring blood oxygen saturation with a digital oximeter is a convenient and cost effective way to help decrease the possible catastrophic risks of diabetes.