What Is Oxygen Therapy and When Is It Used?

Mar 11, 2022

What Is Oxygen Therapy and When Is It Used?

Oxygen is an essential gas that your body requires to function correctly. A low oxygen level can cause side effects such as shortness of breath, fatigue and confusion, and it can also lead to dangerous conditions such as hypoxemia or hypoxia. Fortunately, oxygen therapy — also known as supplemental oxygen — is a readily available medical treatment designed to help combat these problems.

Oxygen therapy: What you need to know

Oxygen therapy is a medical treatment designed to provide extra oxygen for those with low blood oxygen levels. This treatment is most often used for patients who have a health condition that results in a low oxygen level. Because oxygen is considered a drug, you must have a prescription from your health care provider to receive oxygen therapy.

Who needs oxygen therapy?

There are a variety of conditions that can cause low blood oxygen levels, with lung disease being one of the most common. Individuals with conditions such as severe asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cystic fibrosis are likely to require oxygen therapy. Other causes of low oxygen levels include:

  • Viral infections such as COVID-19 or pneumonia
  • Sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea
  • Injuries or trauma to the respiratory system
  • High altitudes
  • Some medications

Some people only need oxygen for a short time, such as during a medical procedure. Others will only need extra oxygen during rest or activity. Still, some patients will need to use oxygen consistently throughout their lives.

Your doctor will determine if you need extra oxygen by testing your arterial blood or performing a pulse oximeter test. If your blood oxygen level is low — at or below 60 mmHg — you may need supplemental oxygen.

How oxygen therapy works

Oxygen therapy is available either as supplemental oxygen treatments or hyperbaric oxygen treatments. While hyperbaric oxygen treatment is usually completed in a medical facility, supplemental oxygen is available for at-home use as well as in clinics and hospitals.

What is supplemental oxygen therapy?

When it comes to oxygen therapy, the delivery method varies depending on the patient’s needs and preferences.

An oxygen tank or cylinder is one of the most common ways to deliver supplemental oxygen. These tanks contain either liquid or compressed oxygen and are available in a variety of sizes. Oxygen concentrators are another delivery method that pulls oxygen from the air, concentrates it and delivers it to the patient.

Both oxygen tanks and concentrators require additional oxygen equipment to function properly. This includes tubing and a face mask or nasal cannula. Oxygen tanks will also need a pressure gauge and regulator to work properly.

What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is an alternative treatment often used to treat injuries, infections, wounds, and conditions such as decompression sickness. During HBOT, a patient enters a special chamber called a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber. Because the pressure in the chamber is so much higher than normal air pressure, it allows the patient’s lungs to gather and use oxygen more efficiently.

What is the purpose of oxygen therapy? The benefits of supplemental oxygen

Regardless of the treatment method, patients undergoing supplemental oxygen therapy can experience a wide variety of benefits, including:

  • Improved energy and mood
  • Better sleep
  • Increased mobility
  • Increased stamina
  • Extended life expectancy
  • Improved quality of life
  • Relief from common side effects (i.e., headaches, irritability, fatigue, etc.)

Oxygen therapy FAQs

What is supplemental oxygen?
Supplemental oxygen is extra oxygen provided by a medical device such as an oxygen tank or oxygen concentrator. It is only available when prescribed to you by a doctor.

Why do I need supplemental oxygen?
You may need supplemental oxygen if your oxygen saturation level falls below 95% (the normal oxygen level in the average adult) or if your arterial blood oxygen level falls below 60 mmHg.

When is oxygen therapy needed?

Some people may need oxygen therapy throughout their lives, while others will only need it at certain periods of time, such as during a medical procedure or while exercising.

What are the symptoms of low oxygen levels?

Low oxygen levels may cause signs such as fatigue, confusion, irritability, difficulty breathing, swelling in the ankles or blue skin around the mouth and fingertips. However, some people with low oxygen levels may not experience any symptoms at all.

Supplemental oxygen products in Sydney

Mega Medical is a proud provider of high-quality, life-saving medical products such as medical gases, oxygen concentrators, medical oxygen consumables and more. Call us today at 1300 881 824 to speak to our support staff about equipping your home or facility with the proper medical equipment.