Altitude sickness is also known as acute mountain sickness and is caused due to low levels of oxygen at very high altitudes owing to acute exposure to low partial oxygen pressure. Such a kind of sickness is known to occur above 2,500 meters. Specific factors such as sex, age, or physical fitness, are not responsible for increasing a person's probability to encounter altitude sickness. Certain people are affected while others are less susceptible to it. About 20% of people who ascend above 2,500 meters in a day are known to experience altitude sickness, where children are more susceptible and increasing risk for people under the age of 60 years.
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Progression of the condition may lead to potentially fatal situation such as high altitude cerebral (HACE) or pulmonary edema (HAPE). Shortness of breath, associated headache and dehydration are the primary symptoms suggesting altitude sickness. Other symptoms include loss of appetite, weakness and trouble sleeping. This condition can be mistaken with flu, dehydration or hangover. Risk factors for altitude sickness comprise obesity, chronic diseases, abuse of narcotics, heavy alcohol consumption and exertion. Disorientation, loss of memory, hallucinations, psychotic disorders, coma and loss of co-ordinations are some of the symptoms related to high altitude cerebral edema. Signs of high altitude pulmonary edema include a bubbling sound and feeling of tightness in the chest, impending suffocation at night, confusion and irrational behavior. At high altitudes, some people may even suffer from acute farsightedness.
The global altitude sickness market can be segmented based on diagnostic tests, therapy type, pipeline assessment and geography. Tests conducted for diagnosis and confirmation of altitude sickness include blood tests, chest X-ray, brain CT scan and electrocardiogram (ECG). Magnetic resonance imaging may be performed to confirm swelling in the brain. Ophthalmoscopes help to identify bleeding in the eyes and ultimately high altitude retinal hemorrhage. Pulse oximetry test helps determine the amount of oxygen in the blood.
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Proper acclimatization to altitudes above 2,500 meters is the best way to avoid altitude sickness. Usually the body is said to acclimatize to the change in altitude within two to three days. Moreover ascending slowly helps body in acclimatization. Hydration and avoiding of alcohol intake are also an important factor in acclimatization. Primary treatment includes administration of extra oxygen. Severe mountain sickness calls for hospitalization. In certain cases, acetazolamide is recommended to help reduce mild symptoms. It acts by increasing the amount of bicarbonate excreted in the urine which renders blood more acidic, ultimately driving ventilation.
Treatment for high altitude pulmonary edema may include oxygen intake, nifedipine, beta agonists, breathing machines and medicines such as phosphodiesterase inhibitors to increase blood flow to the lungs. Frusemide, tadalafil and ibuprofen are also used to treat altitude sickness. Dexamethasone is recommended to minimize cerebral edema. However in case of discontinuation before acclimatization, the drug is known to cause rebound. In addition, portable hyperbaric chambers also help in altitude sickness by improving oxygen uptake of the sufferer.
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Geographically, the altitude sickness market can be categorized into four major regions namely North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and Rest of the World. Some of the key players contributing to the global altitude sickness drugs market are Pfizer, Inc., Bayer AG, Mylan, Inc., Teva Pharmaceuticals, and Bristol Laboratories. Manufacturers for portable oxygen chambers, ventilators include Inogen, Smiths Medical, Philips Healthcare, O2Concepts Oxlife, Vygon, Nidek Medical, OSI Systems, Inova Labs, and Teijin.
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