Conditions that Oxygen Therapy is Used to Treat

Usually, when you see someone using oxygen therapy, what comes to your mind? Many people associate oxygen tanks and concentrators with someone who has a severe case of COPD (emphysema or chronic bronchitis), but this isn't always the case. There is a stigma over those who need to use oxygen – “He/She smoked too many cigarettes and now needs to use oxygen therapy.” Even if they need to use it because they have COPD, people shouldn't be so judgmental. There are several other reasons someone may be using an oxygen concentrator.

Severe Asthma

With severe asthma in the long term, using oxygen therapy at home will help the patient get enough oxygen throughout his or her body. Just like COPD, asthma is a chronic disease of the lungs that causes the lungs to become inflammed, which makes it diffecult to breathe. The asthmatic using oxygen therapy also likely uses her medicine first – a breathing treatment, an inhaler or another oral medication – before using her oxygen tanks or concentrator to bring her blood oxygen level back to normal.

Cystic Fibrosis

This is a disease of the secretory glands, or the glands in your body that produce sweat and mucus. The lungs of someone with cystic fibrosis will produce mucus that is thicker and stickier, which causes a build up of bacteria in the airways. This build up of bacteria then causes infections. This thicker build up of mucus in the lungs also makes it harder to breathe. If someone has been laboring to breathe for too long, they will develop pulmonary hypertension. To prevent this, oxygen therapy has been used to make it easier for the lungs to distribute oxygen throughout the body. When pure oxygen is inhaled, the body doesn't have to work as hard to get it into the bloodstream.

Pulmonary Hypertension

When you don't have enough oxygen pumping to your heart, it puts a strain on your arteries and the right ventricle in the heart. This functions just like regular high blood pressure or hypertension, only with a different cause. This is treated by administering more oxygen into the lungs. Pulmonary hypertension is a secondary disease, which means it was caused by a different disease or condition.

Heart Failure

Heart failure is when the heart can't deliver oxygenated blood to the rest of the body, the way a healthy heart would. If your lungs are working well enough to get oxygen to your bloodstream, your heart can still have trouble pumping the blood, which can cause a low blood oxygen level. Inhaling a higher, pure level of oxygen into the body will help the heart distribute enough throughout the body. Nor everyone with heart failure will need to use oxygen therapy, just as not everyone with COPD will need it. Your doctor determines this with a series of tests, such as an arterial blood gas test.

Information on this page is for reference and educational purposes only. For more information talk to your doctor or primary care provider.

About Scott Ridl: Scott joined American Medical Sales and Rentals in 2008 as a Web Manager and Content Writer. He is a writer and designer. He is extensively trained on oxygen therapy products from leading manufacturers such as Inogen, Respironics, Chart, Invacare, ResMed and more. Scott works closely with respiratory therapists and oxygen specialists to educate the community about oxygen therapy products, COPD, asthma and lung diseases. He writes weekly columns and is passionate about educating the community on oxygen therapy and respiratory issues.

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