Oxygen toxicity is a condition resulting from the harmful effects of breathing molecular oxygen ( O
2 ) at increased partial pressures. It is also known as oxygen toxicity syndrome , oxygen intoxication , and oxygen poisoning. Historically, the central nervous system condition was called the Paul Bert effect , and the pulmonary condition the Lorrain Smith effect , after the researchers who pioneered its discovery and description in the late 19th century. Severe cases can result in cell damage and death, with effects most often seen in the central nervous system, lungs and eyes. Oxygen toxicity is a concern for underwater divers , those on high concentrations of supplemental oxygen (particularly premature babies), and those undergoing hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
The result of breathing increased partial pressures of oxygen is hyperoxia , an excess of oxygen in body tissues. The body is affected in different ways depending on the type of exposure. Central nervous system toxicity is caused by short exposure to high partial pressures of oxygen at greater than atmospheric pressure. Pulmonary and ocular toxicity result from longer exposure to increased oxygen levels at normal pressure. Symptoms may include disorientation, breathing problems, and vision changes such as myopia. Prolonged exposure to above-normal oxygen partial pressures, or shorter exposures to very high partial pressures, can cause oxidative damage to cell membranes , collapse of the alveoli in the lungs, retinal detachment , and seizures. Oxygen toxicity is managed by reducing the exposure to increased oxygen levels. Studies show that, in the long term, a robust recovery from most types of oxygen toxicity is possible.