Carbon Monoxide Effects
How Carbon Monoxide Damages the Body
There are a multitude of dangers associated with carbon monoxide. Some carbon monoxide effects are short term problems and some of which are permanently damaging and even fatal. The destructive nature of carbon monoxide gas is that it prevents oxygen from being delivered to the brain cells and other vital organs of the body. If cells do not receive their necessary supply of oxygen, which is delivered by the hemoglobin and is a component part of our red blood cells, the cells will die. Carbon monoxide molecules are 200 times more likely to bind to hemoglobin than are oxygen molecules. When breathed in, carbon monoxide enters the bloodstream and binds to hemoglobin and crowds out the oxygen molecules. This deprives the cells of the oxygen they need in order to maintain their vitality. Additionally, the iron atoms that are embedded in the hemoglobin molecule will hold onto any residual oxygen more tightly if carbon monoxide is present which results in less oxygen being delivered to the cells and tissue. This causes cells to die.
The disastrous consequences are...
Brain cells do not regenerate. The brain is dependant upon a constant supply of oxygen and therefore vulnerable to permanent damage when deprived of oxygen. The areas of the brain that can be permanently damaged by carbon monoxide inhalation include: the deep white matter structures; the deep gray matter structures; and the hippocampus -- all of which are critical structures that regulate a person’s learning, memory, cognitive and emotional functioning and movement. When the brain is damaged in these affected areas of the brain, thoughts, behaviors, emotions, moods, responses, personality and coordination can change, either subtlety or significantly.
When inhaled, not all carbon monoxide attached to red blood cells. A small amount can also travel in blood plasma and cause cell damage without ever binding to hemoglobin or showing up in a blood test. This free floating carbon monoxide in the bloodstream can trigger cell death of the lining of the heart and blood vessels. Separate from the effects of oxygen deprivation, carbon monoxide can cause direct damage to the heart muscle which in turn reduces the heart’s pumping capacity and permanently impairs cardiac function. Heart damage caused by carbon monoxide may have long-lasting effects even after it has been eliminated from the blood – making the diagnosis of carbon monoxide poisoning even more critical.