The Benefits of Oxygen Therapy

8 Reasons to Use Supplemental Oxygen to Treat COPD

Despite the many health benefits of long-term oxygen therapy (LTOT), studies suggest that not enough people stick with the treatment. In patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, this can present significant barriers to care.

Patients who are non-compliant with treatment often have the following reasons:

  • difficulty of use
  • self-consciousness or a perceived sense of social stigma
  • lack of understanding of its perceived benefit
  • fear of accompanying side effects

If this sounds familiar and you're not using supplemental oxygen as prescribed, recognizing the benefits of oxygen therapy, rather than focusing on the negative aspects, may help you overcome your obstacles for the betterment of your health.

Here's a closer look at the benefits of long-term oxygen therapy for COPD.

Benefits of Oxygen Therapy - Increased Survival

Oxygen Therapy. BSIP/ Getty Images

By far, the most important benefit of LTOT for people with COPD is that, when used a minimum of 15 hours per day, it prolongs life. In fact, the average survival for those using LTOT for at least 18 hours a day is approximately double that of those who don't use supplemental oxygen.

Despite this evidence, studies show that the average number of hours that a patient uses daily supplemental oxygen is typically less than what the doctor has prescribed. Voluntary under-use of oxygen therapy can limit its effectiveness.

If you've been prescribed LTOT, it's important for you to recognize when you're not in compliance with your current 02 treatment program and to discuss possible alternative oxygen delivery strategies with your healthcare provider.

Reduced COPD Complications

COPD is associated with a number of complications that can significantly impact your quality of life, including pulmonary hypertension, secondary polycythemia and cor pulmonale, a form of heart failure.

Supplemental oxygen helps reduce COPD complications by stabilizing pulmonary hypertension, reducing secondary polycythemia, and decreasing arrythmias (irregular heart rhythms) and ECG findings suggestive of myocardial ischemia (a lack of oxygen to the heart).

Additionally, according to the American Lung Association, oxygen therapy helps prevent heart failure in people who have severe lung diseases like COPD.

Lessened COPD Symptoms

Dyspnea, or shortness of breath, is not only the hallmark symptom of COPD; it's also the most disabling and difficult to control.

In patients who need it, supplemental oxygen can help relieve dyspnea and other symptoms related to COPD, including fatigue, dizziness and depression.

Improved Health-Related Quality of Life

When you don't get an adequate supply of oxygen, every organ in your body is affected, which eventually takes a toll on your health and well-being.

Using supplemental oxygen has a positive impact on health-related quality of life. Not only does it improve sleep and mood, it also increases mental alertness and stamina, allowing you to get more done during the day.

Moreover, it may reduce the number of exacerbations and hospitalizations associated with COPD.

Increased Exercise Tolerance

Exercise is one of the most important aspects of COPD management; in fact, a regular physical training program can increase survival and improve quality of life in COPD.

Many patients with COPD, however, have poor exercise tolerance that dramatically limits their ability to exercise. Studies suggest that using oxygen during exercise improves exercise endurance, heightens exercise performance and ultimately decreases the sensation of breathlessness.

Improved Sex Life

Impotence is a common occurrence among men who have COPD. Supplemental oxygen can help. One study showed that 42 percent of sexually impotent men with COPD experienced reversal of sexual impotence when they used LTOT for at least one month.

Additionally, using supplemental oxygen during sex can help you prolong intimacy, an added benefit for both partners.

Safer Air Travel

It's not uncommon for patients with COPD to experience severe hypoxemia when they travel by airplane. Supplemental oxygen during air travel helps patients prevent severe hypoxemia and can benefit many patients, even those who don't normally use oxygen.

If you experience severe COPD symptoms when you travel, talk to your healthcare provider about using supplemental oxygen when you fly.

Improved Social Life

How many times has COPD interfered with your social life? If breathlessness prevents you from enjoying a movie or dinner invitation, maybe it's time you look into using supplemental oxygen by way of a portable oxygen concentrator.

Extremely lightweight and compact, portable oxygen concentrators are much more versatile than their home-based counterparts, allowing you freedom and independence to go about your business in the usual fashion. And many are paid for by Medicare.

If COPD often puts a damper in your plans, talk to your health care provider about going portable.

Sources:

Aasebø U., et. al. Reversal of sexual impotence in male patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and hypoxemia with long-term oxygen therapy.. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 1993 Dec;46(6):799-803.

Croxton, Thomas L., et. al. Long-term Oxygen Treatment in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: Recommendations for Future Research. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Vol 174. pp. 373-378, 2006.

Emtner, Margaret et. al. Benefits of Supplemental Oxygen in Exercise Training in Nonhypoxemic Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Patients. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Vol. 168, No. 9 (2003), pp. 1034-1042. doi: 10.1164/rccm.200212-1525OC.

Ma Rosa Güell Rous. Long-term oxygen therapy: Are we prescribing appropriately?Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2008 June; 3(2): 231–237. Published online 2008 June.PMCID:PMC2629963.

Stoller, James K. MD, MS, FCCP et. al. Oxygen Therapy for Patients With COPD: Current Evidence and the Long-Term Oxygen Treatment Trial. Chest. 2010 July; 138(1): 179–187. doi: 10.1378/chest.09-2555. PMCID: PMC2897694.

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