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Acute mountain sickness

Acute mountain sickness: Introduction

Acute mountain sickness is a condition that can occur at high altitudes. Acute mountain sickness can affect anyone who ventures into higher altitudes, including hikers, skiers, and tourists. Acute mountain sickness generally occurs to people travelling to over 8,000 feet above sea level. Some people can experience some symptoms of acute mountain sickness at altitudes that are as low as 6,000 feet.

Acute mountain sickness occurs due to the lower levels of oxygen and lower air pressure that occurs at high altitudes. This change in the atmosphere and reduced amount of oxygen can affect the lungs, muscles, heart, and nervous system. Reduced levels of oxygen in the vital organs lead to symptoms of acute mountain sickness that can range from mild to severe to life-threatening. Common symptoms include headache, dizziness, rapid pulse, and shortness of breath. Complications of severe acute mountain sickness include life-threatening pulmonary edema, cerebral edema, coma, and death. For more information on symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of acute mountain sickness.

People at risk for developing acute mountain sickness include those who ascend to high altitudes rapidly and people who exercise or exert themselves at high altitudes. People who normally live near sea level are also at risk. All of these factors also increase the risk of developing the most severe form of acute mountain sickness in which fluid accumulates in the lungs (pulmonary edema) and/or in the brain (cerebral edema).

Making a diagnosis of acute mountain sickness includes completing a full medical evaluation, medical history, and physical examination. Cases of mild acute mountain sickness may be diagnosed based on symptoms and history of ascending into a high altitude.

The physical exam also includes listening to the sounds of the heart and the lungs with a stethoscope. Certain sounds, such as a crackling or bubbling sounds in the lungs, indicate congestion in the lungs and may point to a diagnosis of severe acute mountain sickness with pulmonary edema. A chest X-ray is often ordered to help diagnose pulmonary edema.

A neurological exam is also performed to assess for the possibility of severe acute mountain sickness with braining swelling (cerebral edema). A neurological exam evaluates the nerves and nervous system and such functions as alertness, orientation, reflexes, sensation, movement, balance, coordination, vision, and hearing. A CT scan of the brain might be performed to diagnose cerebral edema.

It is possible that a diagnosis of acute mountain sickness can be missed or delayed because in some cases the symptoms are mild. Symptoms can also be similar to symptoms of other conditions. For more information about misdiagnosis and diseases and conditions that can mimic acute mountain sickness, refer to misdiagnosis of acute mountain sickness.

Treatment of acute mountain sickness begins with prevention of the condition. Acute mountain sickness can often be prevented by taking simple steps. When symptoms occur, acute mountain sickness is treated by descending to a lower altitude and with supplemental oxygen therapy. Hospitalization is required for severe cases. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of acute mountain sickness. ...more »

Acute mountain sickness: A condition that occurs when an un-acclimatized person climbs to high altitudes. More detailed information about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of Acute mountain sickness is available below.

Acute mountain sickness: Symptoms

Symptoms of acute mountain sickness can vary in nature and intensity depending on the individual, general health and medical history, what type of altitude a person normally lives at, and how rapidly and high the person ascended in altitude.

Symptoms mild to moderate acute mountain sickness include shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness, light-headedness, headache, nausea, ...more symptoms »

Acute mountain sickness: Treatments

Treatment of acute mountain sickness begins with prevention. Prevention measures include gradually ascending to higher altitudes, especially over 8,000 feet, staying well hydrated, and not exerting oneself at high altitudes until you have acclimated to that altitude. Many people find that their food and water needs increase at high altitudes and that they need to ...more treatments »

Acute mountain sickness: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of acute mountain sickness may be overlooked or delayed because symptoms can minimal in mild cases. In addition, some symptoms can be vague and not specific to acute mountain sickness. These include weakness, fatigue, confusion, headache, hallucination, nausea, vomiting, anxiety and dizziness. These types of symptoms may be attributed to ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Acute mountain sickness

Wrongly Diagnosed with Acute mountain sickness?

Acute mountain sickness: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Acute mountain sickness.

Acute mountain sickness: Complications

Review possible medical complications related to Acute mountain sickness:

Causes of Acute mountain sickness

Read more about causes of Acute mountain sickness.

Disease Topics Related To Acute mountain sickness

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Acute mountain sickness:

Prognosis for Acute mountain sickness

Prognosis for Acute mountain sickness: variable depending on severity and treatment

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More information about Acute mountain sickness

  1. Acute mountain sickness: Introduction
  2. Symptoms
  3. Causes
  4. Treatments
  5. Misdiagnosis
  6. Deaths
  7. Complications
  8. Prognosis

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