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Mountain sickness

Mountain sickness or altitude sickness occurs as a result of lower oxygen at higher altitude along with reduced air pressure. It is a series of symptoms such as dizziness, headache, nausea and loss of appetite.


Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is a mild form of Altitude sickness which is caused by climbing to greater than 8000 feet (2400 meters above sea level). Hypoxemia - the hypoxia resulting from high altitude, in susceptible individuals can occur owing to poor acclimatization. High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) is a serious condition that may affect people prone to Acute mountain sickness. This edema is the accumulation of fluid from pulmonary blood vessels in lungs. This results in shortness of breath, rapid pulse and cough with bloody sputum. If not treated in time, coma and then death might be a possibility.


High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE), though rare is the most life threatening form of Altitude sickness where cerebral edema occurs with symptoms other than those of Mountain sickness can include severe headache, loss of coordination, speech abnormalities, altered level of consciousness and seizures. This condition is fatal unless treated in time. Treatment begins with descent to a lower altitude and oxygen therapy. It is suggested to take Dexamethasone to reduce cerebral edema.


Mountain sickness happens with those who have tried to reach faster. If a person suffering from a severe episode of altitude sickness, problems such as shortness of breath, cyanosis, chest constriction and inability to walk might be noticed. It is easier to treat the early signs of mountain sickness. Returning to lower altitude is the safest step. Additional oxygen must be given. Severe symptoms that might arise are pulmonary edema, cerebral edema or retinal hemorrhage. Rest and oxygen usually helps most persons suffering mountain sickness. Aspirin can be taken for headache but sleeping medications must not be taken as they can slow down breathing. A diuretic like Acetazolamide is prescribed. High altitude edema is best treated with Nifedipine.

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Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: October 16, 2017