Brief description of altitude sickness

Altitude sickness—also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS- refer to AMS medical abbreviation), altitude illness, hypobaropathy, or soroche—is a pathologicaleffect of high altitude on humans, caused by acute exposure to low partial pressure of oxygen at high altitude. It commonly occurs above 2,400 metres (8,000 feet). [1] [2] It presents as a collection of nonspecific symptoms, acquired at high altitude or in low air pressure, resembling a case of “flu, carbon monoxide poisoning, or a hangover”.[3] It is hard to determine who will be affected by altitude sickness, as there are no specific factors that compare with this susceptibility to altitude sickness. However, most people can climb up to 2,400 meters(8,000 ft) normally.

Acute mountain sickness can progress to high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) or high altitude cerebral edema (HACE), which are potentially fatal.[2][4]

Chronic mountain sickness, also known as Monge’s disease, is a different condition that only occurs after very prolonged exposure to high altitude.[5]


[1] Baillie, Kenneth; Simpson, Alistair. “Altitude Tutorials – Altitude Sickness”. Apex (Altitude Physiology Expeditions). Retrieved 2010-01-26.

[2] { Roach, Robert; Stepanek, Jan; and Hackett, Peter. (2002). “24”. Acute Mountain Sickness and High-Altitude Cerebral Edema. In: Medical Aspects of Harsh Environments.2. Washington, DC. Retrieved 2009-01-05.

[3] The Mountaineers. Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, 7th Edition. Seattle, WA: Mountaineers Books, 2003

[4] A.A.R. Thompson. “Altitude Sickness”. Apex. Retrieved 2007-05-08.

[5] A.J. Giannini, H.R. Black, R.L. Goettsche. The Psychiatric, Psychogenic and Somatopsychic Disorders Handbook. New Hyde Park, NY. Medical Examination Publishing Co.,1978. pp.190,192. ISBN 0-87488-596-5.

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