Oxygen Therapy

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD affects thousands of people and every year hundreds of thousands more will be diagnosed. Many patients with severe COPD will be prescribed oxygen in an ongoing attempt to improve their quality of life. When compared with other types of therapy, consistent and long term oxygen therapy has proven to be quite successful both in terms of improving life quality as well as longevity.

Oxygen therapy in simplest terms is oxygen usually administered from a cylinder with a control valve set accordingly to give the correct amount of oxygen. Oxygen is delivered through plastic tubing to a facial mask which is attached to tubes which also connect to the oxygen cylinder. The nasal cannula is probably the most convenient way by which oxygen can be delivered because the tubes are placed gently above the upper lip, two soft plastic prongs fit into the nostrils, and the remaining tube fits over the ears in much the same way eye glasses do.

After your doctor decides you need oxygen therapy, he or she will perform brief tests to determine the percentage of oxygen you need for optimum benefit. The correct dosage of oxygen increases the percentage of the oxygen your body absorbs. All organs need oxygen to perform efficiently and decreased oxygen saturation can result in generalized illness or even organ failure. The act of breathing allows oxygen into the body during inhalation and releases carbon dioxide in exhalation. COPD interrupts the normal balance, often making oxygen therapy necessary.

Short Term Oxygen Therapy is prescribed when a patient has an acute illness or respiratory crisis that is expected to be short lived, such as when pneumonia develops. The oxygen is then administered when oxygen saturation reaches a lower level. When the pneumonia responds and the patient gets better, the percentage of oxygen can be lowered or discontinued altogether. However, when patients suffer from chronic lung disease they sometimes become oxygen starved after engaging in rather minor physical exertion.

Receiving long-term oxygen therapy can actually increase a patient’s ability to survive with good quality of life. The oxygen preserves heart function by decreasing the strain on the cardiovascular system. Oxygen therapy also benefits patients who use it at home on a 24-hour regimen. Oxygen deprivation can cause insomnia in patients whose oxygen saturation levels are low but using oxygen therapy during sleep eliminates this type of sleep disruption. Additionally, lower than normal oxygen levels will cause drowsiness and an inability to concentrate. Oxygen therapy can improve a patient’s ability to think clearly and may even improve their memory. Some patients who previously have reported feeling fatigued and anxious have reported a remarkable improvement after the administration of long term oxygen therapy.

Oxygen Therapy Has Many Benefits

  • Decreased headaches
  • Increased mental acuity
  • Able to fight off illness
  • Decreased nausea
  • Heart failure reduction in patients with severe COPD
  • Organ function improved and maintained

Oxygen Therapy Has Long-Term Benefits

  • Reduces strain on the heart
  • Allows easier breathing
  • Increases the ability to do moderate exercise
  • Allows patient to avoid long hospitalizations

Some patients resist being placed on oxygen therapy because they fear dependence on a machine. They also believe they will lose their ability to move freely, to travel, and to enjoy even moderate exercise. However, many patients report a marked improvement in their enjoyment of life as they have renewed energy and stamina. Also, improvements in medical equipment has allowed for smaller oxygen concentrators and subsequent freedom of movement. There are now units that have been approved for use during air travel.

Improvements in oxygen therapy management means patients can live productively and have good quality of life. If you have been diagnosed with COPD or if you have the symptoms, a trip to the doctor is in order. He or she can help you decide what treatment is the best one for you.