Can Oxygen Therapy Help Treat Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD)?

2 answers | Last updated: Oct 10, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Can oxygen therapy help treat Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD)?

Expert Answers

Norman Edelman, MD, the Chief Medical Officer of the American Lung Association, is also a professor of preventive medicine, internal medicine, and physiology and biophysics at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and the school's former Dean of Medicine

Yes, oxygen therapy can be very beneficial if your lung capacity is diminished due to COPD. When your breathing is impaired, your body may not get enough oxygen, which can affect how you feel and how much activity you can do. Supplemental oxygen therapy can improve your lung function and increase your ability to exercise and be active.

Oxygen therapy has also been shown to improve sleep quality and increase mental stamina. Studies show long-term oxygen therapy also prevents heart failure and increases the survival rate for COPD. Close to 1 million people in the U.S. are on long-term oxygen therapy.

There are three ways to obtain oxygen therapy. You can have compressed oxygen gas or liquid oxygen delivered to your home. The oxygen is stored in steel or aluminum tanks; larger ones are used at home, and smaller, more portable sizes are available that you can take with you.

Liquid oxygen takes up less room and can be stored in smaller containers, so it's more portable. However, it can't be kept as long or it begins to evaporate.

Many people use an oxygen concentrator, a machine that works by concentrating the oxygen that's already in the air. Oxygen concentrators are less expensive and easier to maintain because they don't need to be refilled. However, oxygen concentrators are large == about the size of an end table -- and they can be noisy. Because an oxygen concentrator runs on electricity, it will raise your electric bill; and they give off heat, which can be a problem in the summer. You'll need another type of oxygen therapy as a backup in case of power failure.

Community Answers

Mrrrt001 answered...

Very well said! I would like to add the following: 1. Aluminum cylinders come in very small very portable systems. I would advise the use of an "Oxygen Conserving Device." They are small, light-weight devices that attach to the portable cylinders. They allow Oxygen to flow "only when you inhale." This extends the life of each cylinder considerably. Your provider could explain it in more detail. 2. Portable Concentrators are also available to you, They are smaller and extremely portable. They plug into the many outlets available in cars and trucks today. This can extend your time away from home and make traveling and vacationing much easier to plan. 3. It is important to use your supplemental Oxygen as directed. Particularly on days where your breathing seems a bit more difficult. Too much Oxygen can be as harmful as too little. Therefore it is important to maintain the prescribed liter flow (LPM's). 4. Wearing a cannula (nose prongs) continuously can irritate your nose and ears. Those of you that use home Oxygen know exactly what I'm talking about. Your provider can provide you with commercially available solutions such as pads to protect your ears and nose from "pressure sores" that develop from the "nasal prongs." The flow of Oxygen can dry the inside of your nostrils. This can easily be remedied by adding a humidifier to your Oxygen source. These are specifically made for home use. Your provider can install this for you.

Being on home Oxygen is therapy has improved the quality of life for many. While it certainly is a life style change, there is no reason to be uncomfortable or tethered to our home.