Breathing: COPD: Oxygen Therapy

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What is Oxygen Therapy?


One of the most important therapies for people with COPD, if they qualify, is oxygen. Medical professionals provide oxygen to some people if their oxygen levels are below acceptable levels. A physician will be the one to assess whether oxygen therapy is indicated for a given person.


Determining Oxygen Needs


The way that a physician determines how much oxygen you need is to determine how low your oxygen levels are to start with. Oxygen levels are determined by placing a pulse oximeter on the finger. If at rest, oxygen levels are normal then the physician will have the patient walk, and if oxygen level’s decrease during walking then the patient will need oxygen with walking and likely sleeping. If oxygen levels are noted to be low at rest, than oxygen may be required throughout the day and night. The amount of oxygen that is required is determined by how low the oxygen levels are and how those levels respond to the amount of oxygen that is being given.


Administering Oxygen


There are three approaches to administering oxygen therapy. One way is to administer it through tubing that goes around your ears and underneath the nose, allowing oxygen to flow into the nose. The second approach is administration through a face mask. The third approach is where a catheter is placed through the neck into your windpipe. The catheter stays inside the neck and delivers oxygen directly. This third form is rarely used, because of the level of invasiveness that is required.


Oxygen helps users feel more comfortable with their breathing. It helps improve exercise tolerance and improves thinking. It also helps with sleep and improves heart function.