Thursday, 11 November 2010


I have something strange going on, it's slightly concerning and I'm not entirely sure what to do about it.

I have my own pulse oximeter (measures pulse and oxygen saturations) at home. I used to know someone who 'acquired' certain things during her hospital stays, when she 'aquired' herself a new pulse oximeter she gave me her old one. The main reason I use it is to assure myself that it's not "all in my head" (which is an entirely different blog post to write another day!), that when I'm feeling exhausted and breathless and my oxygen saturations are x%, the way I feel is justified! I also use it as a guide as to when to call an ambulance. Well, that is the theory, I've got an awful habit of watching the numbers drop and waiting for them to go back up, then when they go back up I know I'll be okay in a few hours so I don't bother going to hospital.

Anyway, back to the point, night times have once again become a big problem for my lungs. I wake up numerous times feeling wheezy, tight chested, awful headache, very breathless. About a week ago I popped the pulse oximeter on during one of these nightly wakenings to find my oxygen saturations were 86%. Since then, every night they've slowly go lower, last night my sats were 80% at one point! During the day the pulse oximeter measures my sats to be (most of the time) > 95%. Today I was in the hospital and I checked my pulse oximeter reading against the hospitals reading, which confirmed that my probe is working fine. I also manually check my pulse during the night to see whether that correlates with the reading, which is does. Therefore, I am completely satisfied that my pulse oximeter is working correctly. I reposition the probe on different fingers, swap hands, make sure my fingers are warm and the result is the same.
Even though when I wake up I don't feel great (asthma), I don't feel AS bad as I should to have such low sats.
The obvious 'diagnosis' would be sleep apnea but I'm awake whilst my sats are that low. The pattern has been - I wake up having a huge coughing fit, get in control of my breathing, use my inhaler (I'm not allowed a home neb) and put the probe on. Eventually my sats will start to improve, but the highest I've seen them during the night is 88%.

I have no idea what to do about this. I could speak to my respiratory team but it sounds too weird, I'm concerned they're not going to believe me, but at the same time I'm fully aware that this isn't good....


  1. Dawn, after all your lovely comments on my blog i have jsut found your blog. I used to ahve the address but lost all my favourites where i keep my blogs i read. But have now found it agian!!! I hope you are keeping well. Hugs x

  2. Sorry to hear your not so well right now, I hope you begin to feel better soon Dawn. Sending plenty of soft warm mendy vibes your way.

    Wendy x

  3. Many asthmatics actually get tight during sleep, which can cause them to desaturate. If you're absolutely sure that the pulse -oximeter reading is correct, you should probably have a sleep study done. The test would be able to tell you whether or not you're having sleep apneas or if your desats are being caused by something else. The good news is that most sleep tests can now be done at home. No need to go the hospital.

    You also mentioned that you use your oximeter to validate your symptoms. Unless you're O2 dependent,it's not good to rely on your sat readings to tell you whether or not you should go in for treatment. o2 saturation is usually the last thing to respond during a severe asthma flare. You can be on deaths door and still have a normal sat.

  4. Olive - thanks! Hope you're looking after yourself x

    Wendy - thank you lovely :) x

    Steve - thanks for your comment. I guess I will mention the low sats at my next respiratory review and see what they suggest.