Oxygen therapy is one of the types of medications used to treat the chronic lung disease, emphysema. Emphysema doesn't always require oxygen therapy as a treatment – this depends on your lung function and how low your blood oxygen level is. If it's below the accepted levels, you'll need to be able to breathe in higher concentrations of oxygen, because your lungs cannot bring in what your body needs, on their own.
What does it mean when one has emphysema? Emphysema is when some of the tiny air sacks in the lungs are too damaged to function or function properly. Their function is a significant one – they are the gateways between the lungs and the bloodstream.
The oxygen you breathe in is transferred through the air sacks, called alveoli, to your blood, which is then taken to all the parts of your body. Your blood also carries carbon dioxide out of your body, from your blood to your lungs, which is exhaled as waste. When your alveoli are too damaged to function properly enough, you can't get enough oxygen to your blood, and it's much harder to release the carbon dioxide.
If an arterial blood gas (ABG) test is done, and your blood oxygen is too low, you'll most likely be prescribed the use of oxygen therapy. Your doctor will assess your diagnosis to determine how much oxygen therapy you need, and he or she will write a prescription. You would use this prescription to purchase an oxygen concentrator.
As long as a portable concentrator meets your dosage requirements, it will be safe for you to use that portable concentrator. Your doctor will also most likely help you decide on a portable oxygen concentrator that will meet your oxygen needs, and your lifestyle needs.
For example, your doctor might refer you to a pulmonary therapy specialist. To continue with getting moderate physical activity that is recommended by your doctor, you will need a portable oxygen concentrator that has a good oxygen conservation feature. This will make sure that even as your breath rate goes up, you will still receive the same amount of oxygen, at the same time during your breath cycle.
Many of the newer portable oxygen concentrators have this technology. It senses the subtle change in air pressure of your breath and releases the amount you need at the exact moment that you need it when you're right about to inhale. Very important for someone with emphysema, or any other severe stage of chronic lung disease.
Portable oxygen concentrators also make it possible for you to exercise much more natural than if you were stuck at home. You can ride a bike through the park, or take a walk around the block, knowing that your body is still receiving the same amount of oxygen that you need. Just be sure to charge up the battery before you leave, to make sure you're covered when you'll be out!
For more information about emphysema, talk to your doctor or primary care provider.
Page last updated: October 5, 2018
- Center to Advance Palliative Care. http://www.getpalliativecare.org