Oxygen is prescribed for a variety of conditions, most commonly Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Other conditions might include asthma, cystic fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension, cluster headaches , as well as chronic heart conditions and certain types of lung cancers.
Air is a mixture of the gases; oxygen and nitrogen which are the main components with trace amounts of other gases. Oxygen accounts for about 21% of gas in air. Every cell in our body needs oxygen to live and function. In order for oxygen to get to these cells, it must be transported through the airways of the lungs.
Oxygen is prevented from transferring into the blood stream if there is a blockage in the airway. This can be caused by mucus or the narrowing of airways from swelling or constriction. A condition called Emphysema can cause damage to the alveoli which also prevents the transfer of oxygen into the blood stream. This results in low oxygen levels and is called hypoxaemia.
Hypoxaemia, or low blood oxygen, is a lower than normal level of oxygen in your blood. In order to function properly, your body needs a certain level of oxygen circulating in the blood to cells and tissues. When your oxygen level falls below a certain amount, hypoxaemia occurs and you may experience shortness of breath.
What happens next?
If your healthcare professional has advised you of the need for supplementary oxygen therapy, a Home Oxygen Order Form (HOOF) will be provided to your area supplier and the equipment will be delivered and set up in your home.
Some patients although short of breath do not need oxygen at rest, however they may need oxygen when exercising. If you do require oxygen when exercising you will receive a full oxygen assessment from your healthcare professional.
Oxygen should only be used when prescribed by your healthcare professional and administered using the equipment they decide is best for you and at the flow rate they have prescribed.