Everyone needs oxygen. People with healthy lungs are generally able to get all they need by breathing the air around them, which is around 21 percent oxygen. When air is breathed in, the lungs filter out the oxygen and transfer it into the bloodstream through tiny sacs called alveoli. For people whose lungs are inflamed or damaged, this is easier said than done. These people’s lungs are either temporarily or permanently unable to transfer enough oxygen into the bloodstream on their own. This is usually due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

COPD is a blanket term that applies to a number of illnesses and conditions, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Supplemental oxygen therapy is a form of treatment for the symptoms of these conditions. By increasing the concentration of oxygen in the air that’s breathed in, the amount that the lungs can successfully transfer to the blood also increases. This may help patients sleep better, improve mood and mental alertness, increase stamina and prevent heart failure.

How do I receive oxygen therapy?

First, you will need to be evaluated by a doctor. If you’re in the hospital, you may receive oxygen therapy during your stay. Outpatient oxygen therapy can only be administered with a prescription.

You can receive supplemental oxygen using either oxygen tanks or oxygen concentrators. Oxygen tanks may contain either compressed oxygen gas or liquid oxygen. Compressed oxygen gas will last longer than liquid oxygen, but takes up more space. On the other hand, oxygen concentrators are generally less expensive and easier to maintain because they work by pulling in more of the oxygen that’s already in the air. However, concentrators are also noisier, not portable and need to be connected to a power source at all times.

Although oxygen itself is non-flammable, an oxygen-rich environment does make it easier for things to burn or combust. Whichever form of supplemental oxygen you’re using, you will need to follow certain safety precautions. These may include:

  • Posting “No Smoking” and “No Open Flames” signs around your home
  • Avoiding matches, candles, campfires, grills and burning tobacco
  • Staying at least five feet away from sources of heat, including space heaters or stoves
  • Storing your oxygen safely with the oxygen supply valves turned off when not in use

Improving lives in Central Oregon through oxygen therapy

At St. Charles Health System, we’ve helped many COPD patients improve their quality of life with oxygen therapy. Our compassionate physicians and staff are extremely experienced with this type of treatment and can guide you to the best possible outcome for you.

If you’re struggling with COPD, call St. Charles Health System today at 541-706-5860 to schedule an appointment with a pulmonary specialist.

The pulmonary specialists at St. Charles Health System work to improve the lives of patients with COPD in Central Oregon by providing oxygen therapy.