Chronic Mountain Sickness

Zubieta-Castillo, G. and Zubieta-Calleja, G.


The capacity of adaptation of human beings to atmospheric pressure changes is noteworthy. In high altitude adaptation (HAA) we should consider: that of normal man and that of the diseased. The acute HAA can be more dramatic and dangerous than chronic HAA. In order to increase the oxygen carrying capacity of blood at high altitude, the number of red blood cells increase (as initially described by the French physiologist Viault) in normal high altitude residents. This increase is greater in some cases of cardiac or respiratory disease at high altitude, in what has been called chronic mountain sickness by the Peruvian scientist Carlos Monge. This abnormal increase is also called increased polycythemia or excessive erythrocytosis.

Disease at high altitude is the same as that at sea level but with HYPOXIC PHYSIOGNOMIES. In the Bolivian Andes above 3000 m, respiratory disease with INCREASED POLYCYTHEMIA affects thousands of patients. With the availability of pulmonary function tests and blood gas techniques, it is increasingly evident that CMS is due to some ventilatory or respiratory alteration-*+.

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