Oxygen, a gas found in the air we breathe, is necessary for human life. Some people with breathing disorders can’t get enough oxygen naturally. They may need supplemental oxygen or oxygen therapy. People who receive oxygen therapy often see improved energy levels and sleep, and better quality of life.
Oxygen therapy is prescribed for people who can’t get enough oxygen on their own. This is often because of lung conditions that prevent the lungs from absorbing oxygen, including:
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- bronchopulmonary dysplasia, underdeveloped lungs in newborns
- heart failure
- cystic fibrosis
- sleep apnea
- lung disease
- trauma to the respiratory system
To determine whether a person will benefit from oxygen therapy, doctors test the amount of oxygen in their arterial blood. Another way to check is using a pulse oximeter that indirectly measures oxygen levels, or saturation, without requiring a blood sample. The pulse oximeter clips onto a person’s body part, like a finger. Low levels mean that a person may be a good candidate for supplemental oxygen.
Normal arterial blood oxygen levels are between 75 and 100 mmHg (millimeters of mercury). An oxygen level of 60 mmHg or lower indicates the need for supplemental oxygen. Too much oxygen can also be dangerous and can damage the cells in your lungs. Your oxygen level should not go above 110 mmHg.
Some people need oxygen therapy all the time, while others need it only occasionally or in certain situations. Some oxygen therapy is done at a doctor’s office, and other times people have an oxygen supply in their homes or a portable oxygen system.