Oxygen Theraphy

An Overview

Oxygen, a gas found in the air we breathe, is necessary for human life. Some people with breathing disorders can’t get enough oxygen naturally. They may need supplemental oxygen, or oxygen therapy. People who receive oxygen therapy often see improved energy levels and sleep, and better quality of life. Who needs oxygen therapy?
Oxygen therapy is prescribed for people who can’t get enough oxygen on their own. This is often because of lung conditions that prevents the lungs from absorbing oxygen, including:
• chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
• pneumonia
• asthma
• bronchopulmonary dysplasia, underdeveloped lungs in newborns
• heart failure
• cystic fibrosis
• sleep apnea
• lung disease
• trauma to the respiratory system
To determine whether a person will benefit from oxygen therapy, doctors test the amount of oxygen in their arterial blood. Another way to check is using a pulse oximeter that indirectly measures oxygen levels, or saturation, without requiring a blood sample.

Who needs oxygen therapy

Oxygen therapy is prescribed for people who can’t get enough oxygen on their own. This is often because of lung conditions that prevents the lungs from absorbing oxygen, including:
• chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
• pneumonia
• asthma
• bronchopulmonary dysplasia, underdeveloped lungs in newborns
• heart failure
• cystic fibrosis
• sleep apnea
• lung disease
• trauma to the respiratory system
To determine whether a person will benefit from oxygen therapy, doctors test the amount of oxygen in their arterial blood. Another way to check is using a pulse oximeter that indirectly measures oxygen levels, or saturation, without requiring a blood sample.

What are the symptoms of low oxygen

When you aren’t getting enough oxygen, you’ll experience a host of symptoms, including:
• rapid breathing
• shortness of breath
• fast heart rate
• coughing or wheezing
• sweating
• confusion
• changes in the color of your skin
If you experience any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.

Types of Oxygen Theraphy

There are a number of different types of oxygen therapies that can be used. These include:
• oxygen gas
• liquid oxygen
• oxygen concentrators
• hyperbaric oxygen therapy

Oxygen gas

Oxygen gas can be stored in a portable tank. These are called compressed gas systems. A larger stationary concentrator is used within the home, and a smaller oxygen tank can be taken to use outside the home. The smaller tanks might be used along with oxygen-conserving devices so that the oxygen supply lasts longer. The oxygen is delivered in pulses, not continuously.

Liquid oxygen

Liquid oxygen also can be stored in a portable tank. Liquid oxygen is more highly concentrated, so more oxygen can fit in a smaller tank. This is helpful for people who are very active, but it will evaporate if it isn’t used in a timely manner. These tanks are refillable. Both liquid oxygen and oxygen gas are available for home delivery in many locations.

Oxygen concentrators

Oxygen concentrators are less portable than the other options. An oxygen concentrator is a device that takes oxygen from the room, concentrates it for therapeutic use, and removes other naturally occurring gases. The benefits of concentrators are that they are less expensive and don’t require filling like tanks. Portable versions are available. However, most models are too large to be truly portable.
Oxygen is distributed from the tank through a tube. It enters the lungs through nasal tubes, a face mask, or a tube inserted directly into the person’s windpipe.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is unlike the other methods of oxygen therapy. People will breathe in pure oxygen in a pressurized room or chamber. In the hyperbaric chambers, the air pressure is increased to three or four times the normal air pressure levels. This increases the amount of oxygen delivered to the body’s tissue. This type of oxygen delivery is often used to treat wounds, serious infections, or bubbles of air in your blood vessels. Hyperbaric therapy should be carried out carefully so that blood oxygen levels don’t become too high.

Benefits of Oxygen Theraphy

Oxygen therapy can be extremely beneficial for those who frequently experience low oxygen levels, regardless of the reason. If needed, regularly utilizing oxygen therapy can allow people to be more active and mobile by decreasing shortness of breath. It also can significantly improve quality of life, and in many cases extend life expectancy.

Oxygen therapy can also reduce symptoms such as:

headaches
irritability
fatigue
swollen ankles
Oxygen therapy can help the growth and development of children who have chronic lung conditions. It can also lessen symptoms such as headaches caused by low oxygen levels, and behavioral changes or problems.

What are healthy oxygen levels

A healthy oxygen level (also called oxygen saturation) is 95% or higher. Healthcare providers prescribe oxygen therapy when oxygen levels drop below 88%.

Providers use these tests to measure oxygen levels:

Pulse oximeter

This small device painlessly clips onto your finger, toe or earlobe. Sensors in the device send light beams through your skin to measure oxygen levels in capillaries (tiny blood vessels). Many providers routinely perform this test at each appointment. You can also buy a pulse oximeter (pulse ox) at drugstores to use at home.

Arterial blood gas test

This test uses a blood sample from an artery to measure oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in your blood. This test is the most accurate method for determining lung function.
Lung function tests: Pulmonary function tests like spirometry measure how well you inhale and exhale air. Some tests also measure your lungs’ ability to send oxygen into your cells.

What are signs of low oxygen levels (hypoxia)

You can’t always tell when your oxygen levels are low. When symptoms occur, you may experience:

  • Bluish tint to skin, lips and nails.
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Shortness of breathe
  • Severe headaches.
  • Coughing or wheezing.
  • Fast pulse and heart rate.
  • Confusion.

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