Oxygen Therapy

Supplemental oxygen is often prescribed for people with severe COPD. Changes occur in the lungs of COPD patients. These include narrowing of the airways and the destruction of lung tissue, which can make it harder to breathe. Therefore, the amount of oxygen that reaches the blood is not enough to meet the body’s needs. Oxygen therapy can help control this problem.

Benefits of Oxygen Therapy

Oxygen therapy can improve a person’s ability to exercise. It can also improve sleep and thinking skills.

When is Oxygen Therapy Necessary?

Oxygen might be necessary if you or the person you care for experiences any of the following:

  1. A low blood oxygen level, as identified by a doctor;
  2. Shortness of breath, more than normal;
  3. Harder time exercising, more than normal;
  4. Tiredness or dizziness.

Talk with your health care provider to decide if oxygen therapy is right for you or the person you care for. Oxygen therapy is prescribed based on one of a few different tests. Your health care provider will suggest tests to see if oxygen therapy is a good fit.

Types of Oxygen Systems

There are several types of oxygen systems. Your health care provider can help decide which oxygen therapy device is right for your lifestyle or the lifestyle of the person you care for.

Oxygen concentrator
The most commonly used system at home. These systems produce oxygen by concentrating the oxygen that is already in the air and eliminating other gases. A portable version is available that allows user flexibility outside of the home.

Compressed oxygen cylinders
These systems, weighing less than eight pounds, are designed for greater mobility.  They are typically small enough to be carried in small side packs.

Liquid oxygen systems
These systems allow larger amounts of oxygen to be stored in smaller, more convenient containers than compressed oxygen. However, they cannot be kept for a long time because the liquid oxygen can evaporate.

Please see the oxygen therapy & travel factsheet for more information about travel. For more resources, visit the COPD section of our Library.