Top 7 Benefits of Oxygen Therapy in COPD

Top 7 Benefits of Oxygen Therapy in COPD

Are you using oxygen therapy the way it’s prescribed? If you have COPD and the answer is no, you’re not alone. Studies suggest that, despite its many benefits, the average number of hours a patient uses supplemental oxygen is less than what’s prescribed by their doctor. Well-documented reasons for the underuse of oxygen therapy include: [1]

  • physical difficulty of using it
  • self-consciousness and a sense of social stigma
  • fear of unwanted side effects
  • lack in understanding of benefit

The voluntary underuse of oxygen limits its effectiveness.2 If any of the above-cited reasons sound familiar, maybe learning about the top 7 benefits of oxygen therapy for COPD will encourage you to follow your oxygen treatment plan more carefully.

  1. Prolongs Life

Perhaps the most important reason for using long-term oxygen therapy (LTOT) is that, in COPD patients with severe resting hypoxemia (low blood oxygen levels), it prolongs life when used at least 15 hours a day.[2] In fact, average survival in COPD patients using LTOT at least 18 hours a day is two times longer than COPD patients who don’t use supplemental oxygen.2 If you’ve been prescribed supplemental oxygen, it’s important that you recognize when you’re not in compliance with your oxygen prescription and to discuss alternative oxygen delivery strategies with your health care provider.

  1. Decreases Breathlessness

Breathlessness is by far the most troubling symptom of COPD and contributes to everything from social isolation to lack of exercise. Supplemental oxygen has been found to reduce the level of breathlessness in patients with COPD and is associated with a reduced rate of breathing during exercise, as well.[3]

  1. Improves Quality of Life

Oxygen therapy enhances quality of life by improving mood and sleep, increasing mental alertness and stamina and allowing you to carry out normal daily activities. It’s also associated with the prevention of heart failure in people with severe lung disease.[4]

  1. Increases Exercise Capacity

People with COPD have poor exercise tolerance limiting their ability to perform physical activity. But exercise is one of the most important aspects of COPD treatment and has been linked to increased survival and improved quality of life in COPD. Using supplemental oxygen during exercise improves exercise endurance, heightens exercise performance and decreases the sensation of breathlessness during exercise allowing you to exercise longer at a higher intensity.[5]

  1. Improves Sexual Performance

Erectile impotence is frequently encountered by male patients with COPD and hypoxia (low oxygen levels). One study showed that 42% of patients experienced reversal of sexual impotence after receiving LTOT for at least one month.[6]

  1. Makes Air Travel Safer

It’s common for people with COPD to experience severe hypoxemia when they travel by airplane, even if they don’t normally use supplemental oxygen.  In-flight oxygen therapy makes air travel safer by reducing the risk of severe hypoxemia. Talk to your health care provider for more information and to see if you qualify.

  1. Perks Up Your Social Life

Social isolation got you down? Maybe it’s time you made the switch from your standard home oxygen concentrator to an innovative portable solution. With a portable oxygen concentrator like the Inogen One G3, gone are the days of sitting at home alone in front of your television set. Extremely lightweight and compact, the Inogen One G3 improves your social life by granting you the freedom and independence to do what you want, when you want.

[1] Mark A Earnest, MD, PhD. “Explaining Adherence to Supplemental Oxygen Therapy: The Patient’s Perspective”. J Gen Intern Med. 2002 Oct; 17(10): 749–755.

[2] Thomas L. Croxton , William C. Bailey.Long-term Oxygen Treatment in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: Recommendations for Future Research”. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine Vol 174. pp. 373-378, 2006.

[3] Christopher R. Swinburn, Hazel Mould, Timothy N. Stone, Paul A. Corris, and G. John Gibson “Symptomatic Benefit of Supplemental Oxygen in Hypoxemic Patients with Chronic Lung Disease”, American Review of Respiratory Disease, Vol. 143, No. 5_pt_1 (1991), pp. 913-915.

[4] American Lung Association. “Supplemental Oxygen”. Accessed August 16, 2015.

[5] Emtner, Margaret et. al. “Benefits of Supplemental Oxygen in Exercise Training in Nonhypoxemic Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Patients”. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Vol. 168, No. 9 (2003), pp. 1034-1042.

[6] Aasebo, U., et. al. “Reversal of sexual impotence in male patients with COPD and hypoxemia with LTOT”. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 1993 Dec;46(6):799-803.

By Deborah Leader RN, BSN, PHN

One thought on “Top 7 Benefits of Oxygen Therapy in COPD”

  1. Partha Sarthy says:

    Great article! Thanks for sharing this information with us. It would really a helpful guide for the people who suffer to breath hard due to COPD.

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