High Altitude Illness: A Clinical Summary
High altitude illness is a group of symptoms caused by decreased oxygen levels and lower air pressure at high altitudes. There are four types of high altitude illness that include acute mountain sickness (AMS), chronic mountain sickness (CMS), high altitude cerebral edema (HACE), and high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) with AMS being the most common. Diagnosis of high altitude illness is based on symptomatology and history of high altitude exposure. Most patients with AMS present with headache, fatigue, dizziness, and gastrointestinal problems such as nausea and vomiting. HACE and HAPE are more severe and can develop as a result of untreated AMS. Populations with underlying medical conditions related breathing and pulmonary hypertension are more susceptible to AMS, and HAPE specifically. Non-pharmacologic treatments are preferred, including slowed rate of ascent and descent in cases where symptoms do not resolve quickly. Pharmacologic treatment is based on the type of high altitude illness. High altitude illness is a common disease state that allows pharmacists to counsel patients and provide symptom management in inpatient and outpatient settings.