Medical oxygen is used as therapy or life support for various conditions.
Oxygen is used for both industrial and medical purposes. Medical oxygen is used in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, clinics, and homes.
Medical oxygen is used as life support:
- For patients who cannot breathe in oxygen from the atmospheric air on their own.
- During surgery.
- During emergency medical conditions.
- In the form of oxygen therapy.
- For premature babies with immature lung function.
As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates medical oxygen, it is delivered as high purity oxygen, devoid of any contaminants, such as other gases. You only get it after a prescription from your hospital or doctor to order medical oxygen.
Not everyone requires the same quantity and flow of oxygen. And so, your doctor decides how much you need.
When do you need oxygen therapy? 10 medical conditions
Oxygen therapy can be used for a short period, a long time, or even a lifetime for low oxygen blood levels (hypoxemia).
The therapy is delivered as supplemental oxygen and may be used to improve the oxygen intake in medical conditions such as:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Pulmonary fibrosis (severe scarring of the lung tissue)
- A severe asthma attack (status asthmaticus)
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
- Pulmonary edema (swollen lungs due to build-up of fluid in the lungs)
- Cystic fibrosis (a genetic disorder that causes the formation of cysts in multiple organs of the body, most commonly the lungs and pancreas)
- Viral infections such as COVID-19 with ARDS and an inability to maintain O2 saturation
- Interstitial lung disease (a large group of lung disorders that causes progressive scarring of the lung)
- Sleep apnea (frequent episodes of cessation of breathing during sleep)
Oxygen therapy treatment increases the amount of oxygen your lungs receive and deliver to your blood.
What are the signs and symptoms of low oxygen blood levels?
Low levels of oxygen in your blood can give rise to many signs and symptoms depending on its severity.
These signs and symptoms include:
- Headache (mild to severe)
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heartbeat
- Cyanosis (bluish discoloration of skin, fingernails, and lips)
Not having enough blood oxygen levels results in inadequate oxygen supply to the organs and other structures of the body. If left untreated for a long time, it can end up damaging the brain or heart.
What are the types of oxygen therapy?
You can receive oxygen therapy in any of the ways, including:
- From tubes resting in your nose
- Via a face mask
- From a tube placed in your trachea (windpipe) by creating a small opening in your throat
Oxygen is stored as a gas or liquid in special tanks, referred to as oxygen tanks. Liquid tanks are widely used in hospitals, whereas cylinders or small tanks containing compressed oxygen gas can be used as portable devices for home use. These tanks will require refills depending on your requirements.
Another way to use oxygen therapy at home is with the help of an oxygen concentrator, which works by pulling oxygen out of the air quickly for instant usage. Like oxygen tanks, these do not require constant refills. These are mostly preferred for home use of oxygen therapy.
Can oxygen therapy be harmful?
Oxygen therapy is generally safe for most people, but it can cause some side effects, such as:
The use of oxygen comes with the risk of catching fire. Therefore, you should be careful and never smoke or use flammable materials (such as a cigar lighter) when near an oxygen supply.