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Diseases of high terrestrial altitudes 

Diseases of high terrestrial altitudes
Chapter:
Diseases of high terrestrial altitudes
Author(s):

Tyler Albert

, Erik R. Swenson

, Andrew J. Pollard

, Buddha Basnyat

, and David R. Murdoch

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780198746690.003.0209
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date: 07 March 2021

Ascent to altitudes above 2,500 m leads to exposure to hypobaric hypoxia. This affects performance on first arrival at high altitude and disturbs sleep, but physiological changes occur over time to defend arterial and tissue oxygenation and allow the individual to adjust. This process of acclimatization includes (1) an increase in the rate and depth of breathing; and (2) an increase in red cell mass, and in red cell 2,3-diphosphoglycerate. Acclimatization is no longer possible at extreme altitude (>5,800 m) and the exposed individual will gradually deteriorate. Altitude illness results from a failure to adjust to hypobaric hypoxia at altitude. Risk is increased by ascent to higher altitudes, by more rapid gain in altitude, and (in some people) genetic predisposition; the condition may be avoided in most cases by slow, graded ascent.

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