ALTITUDE SICKNESS - Overview, Facts, Types, Symptoms, Diagnosis


Travelling to a high altitude without progressively acclimating causes altitude sickness. Acute mountain sickness, altitude sickness, hypobaropathy, Acosta disease, puna, and soroche are some of the other terms used to describe this condition.

Altitude sickness most likely happens to someone unfamiliar with higher latitudes. Moreover, the sickness is mainly caused by a shortage of oxygen and occurs at more than 8,000 feet (2,500 meters). This is a severe disorder that can lead to significant problems if not treated properly.


Altitude sickness has three levels:

Acute mountain sickness. This is the most prevalent type of this sickness. It is also the mildest form, which only causes nausea, headache, dizziness, and muscle ache.

High-altitude pulmonary edema. This type can be life-threatening because fluids accumulate inside the lungs. Moreover, this type counts for most of the mortality-rate on this sickness.

High-altitude cerebral edema. This type is the most dangerous form because it occurs when fluid accumulates in the brain.


Several factors influence the severity of symptoms, including:

  • An individual’s age, weight, blood pressure, and respiratory endurance
  • How fast an individual climbs a high altitude
  • The duration of time spent at that elevation

The following are some of the signs and symptoms of this sickness:

  • Nausea, vomiting, or a loss of appetite
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Restlessness
  • Tingling or prickling
  • Breathlessness
  • Feeling drowsy
  • Edema

Furthermore, altitude sickness can worsen over time, leading to significant problems, such as fluid in the lungs and brain enlargement. For such cases, seek medical help immediately.


A headache is the most common symptom of altitude sickness. Similar symptoms can be caused by a variety of conditions, including dehydration. As a result, a doctor will evaluate various factors to arrive at a diagnosis.


Those with just minor symptoms may continue to climb, albeit at a considerably milder pace. However, anyone experiencing even minor symptoms should notify others.

Meanwhile, those experiencing more severe symptoms should relax, drink lots of water, and avoid anything that might lower blood oxygen levels, such as smoking.

Moreover, there are a variety of treatments that might help you recover from altitude sickness, namely:

  • Nifedipine
  • Acetazolamide
  • A Gamow bag
  • Dexamethasone
  • Pure oxygen
  • Descending
  • Painkillers

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