Oxygen Concentrators and Sleep Apnea/COPD

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which you stop and restart breathing repeatedly while sleeping. It can be dangerous if not treated. Symptoms include snoring and feeling sleepy while awake. You may also suffer from headaches, sore throat, and dryness of the mouth. Sleep apnea occurs when muscles located in the back of your throat relax causing a narrowing of the airway, which in turn results in breathing cessation. Although you often don’t remember it, this causes awakening so that breathing will return. Sleep apnea can be caused by being overweight, having a thick neck or narrowed airway, smoking, and alcohol and drug use. Sleep apnea is most common in older men, although it can affect women and people of any age.

If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, your doctor may prescribe supplemental oxygen treatment. This is added to positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy. Supplemental oxygen is used when PAP therapy does not provide enough relief for low blood oxygen levels. Oxygen is not used alone as a treatment for sleep apnea because it is not able to stop apnea from happening.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a term used to describe several lung ailments, including emphysema, certain types of bronchitis, bronchiectasis, and asthma. All of these are progressive lung diseases and include uncomfortable breathlessness. Symptoms of COPD also include coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness. COPD is often caused by the use of tobacco products or inhalation of fumes or dust in an industrial workplace.

If you are uncomfortable, breathless, and/or your blood oxygen levels are low, your healthcare provider may prescribe oxygen as a treatment for COPD symptoms. Besides increasing energy and helping you feel more comfortable, oxygen use may also increase your lifespan because it can help prevent heart failure. For this benefit to occur, patients need to use oxygen at least 15 hours per day.

Sometimes sleep-related breathing disorders and COPD occur together. In this case, oxygen therapy is extremely beneficial, and may be prescribed up to 24 hours per day.

When oxygen is prescribed an oxygen concentrator can be the perfect choice for overnight use. Oxygen concentrators reprocess air in the surrounding area and deliver it as medical grade oxygen to the patient. This means that, unlike with traditional oxygen tanks, oxygen does not run out. As long as the machine remains plugged into an electrical outlet or the battery stays charged, oxygen is always available to the patient, with no refilling required.

Depending on your situation, your doctor may prescribe that you use continuous flow or pulse dose delivery from your oxygen concentrator. Continuous flow oxygen concentrators provide a consistent amount of oxygen regardless of how many times a patient breaths per minute. Because they deliver a precise amount of oxygen per minute based on the manufacturer’s specs, intermittent, or pulse dose, oxygen concentrators are usually recommended for patients that require a lower flow of oxygen.

Oxygen concentrators have other advantages for sleep apnea or COPD patients in need of oxygen treatment. Oxygen concentrators don’t contain oxygen, so they do not provide the same issues as storing oxygen. Portable oxygen concentrators also allow ease of mobility, as they can be taken anywhere, which significantly increases the convenience of their use.

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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