General: Mountain sickness is typically diagnosed if the patient was exposed to high altitudes and experiences symptoms that are characteristic of the disorder. If the patient is dizzy, fatigued, has a headache, and decreased appetite, acute mountain sickness (AMS) is diagnosed. If the patient has difficulty breathing, has a wet cough with frothy sputum, and makes gurgling sounds when breathing, high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) is diagnosed. If the patient has symptoms of an altered mental state, such as confusion and loss of coordination, high altitude cerebral edema (HACE) is diagnosed. High altitude retinal hemorrhage (HARH) is diagnosed if the patient has blurred vision or bleeding in the eyes. In some cases, tests may need to be performed to confirm a diagnosis or measure the severity of organ damage.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan: If a patient has HACE, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the brain may be performed to confirm that the brain is swollen. During the procedure, which is performed at the hospital, a machine takes pictures of the brain.
Ophthalmoscopy: Patients who experience blurred vision should visit their eye doctors. The doctor will use a hand-help instrument, called an ophthalmoscope, to view the eye. If bleeding is present, high altitude retinal hemorrhage (HARH) is diagnosed.
Physical examination: The healthcare provider may hear crackling noises in the patient's lungs when he/she breathes. This indicates that there is fluid in the lungs and the patient has pulmonary edema.
Pulse oximetry: A pulse oximetry test may be performed to determine how much oxygen is in the blood. During this painless procedure, a special clip is placed on the finger, earlobe, or toe. This clip passes two light waves through the skin to measure the amount of oxygen in the blood. Healthy individuals have oxygen saturation between 95% and 99%. Patients with oxygen levels lower than 95% are diagnosed with mountain sickness.
X-ray: A chest X-ray may show fluid filling in the lungs, which is characteristic of HAPE.
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