We provide screening for hypoxemia by oximetry. Hypoxemia is low oxygen content in the blood, and symptoms may be shortness of breath, a fast heartbeat, coughing, confusion and headaches. Severe hypoxemia can interfere with brain and heart function. Causes include lung conditions such as COPD, heart conditions and sleep apnea. Hypoxemia can be diagnosed by pulse oximetry – a measurement of blood oxygen read by a sensor that slips over your finger. This process is painless and non-invasive.
With home oxygen therapy, the patient receives oxygen from the tank through a cannula, or tube, that is clipped to the outside of the nose. A breathing mask may be preferred. The amount of time spent receiving oxygen is based on individual needs. Oxygen therapy effectively increases the amount of oxygen in the body to healthy normal levels, and your physician may prescribe varied flow rates for different activities like exercise, sleep or rest. Some patients only require oxygen therapy while sleeping, resulting in improved mood, mental alertness and quality of sleep. Home oxygen therapy has been shown to reduce the worsening of COPD symptoms. Other benefits are increased exercise tolerance with decreased sense of breathlessness and improved quality of life with the use of portable oxygen concentrators for independent living and social wellbeing.
Although the benefits of supplemental oxygen therapy vary greatly with each individual, there are side effects and safety issues to be aware of. Nasal dryness and skin irritation at the contact point where cannula meets skin, can be irritating. The use of a humidifier and saline solution help solve this problem. Oxygen is a safe non-flammable gas, but does support combustion. If you are new to oxygen therapy, you will learn how to store your oxygen canister properly, and post no smoking signs on your door. You will turn off the oxygen supply valves when not in use, and use caution around open flames like candles and gas heaters.