When we’re out in public, we tend to notice people who have obvious differences, such as using an oxygen concentrator to breathe. Many of us pass these people and never expect to need oxygen therapy ourselves. However, there are several common conditions that might require oxygen therapy, and depending on your health, your family history, and your circumstances, you could develop one of them. Stay informed about your own health by learning about six of these common conditions.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is something we often hear about in medication commercials on TV but never expect to personally develop. But there are many risk factors for COPD that you may experience in your life, such as long-term exposure to lung irritants in the workplace or living in a home where you regularly inhale secondhand smoke. Even genetics can play a part in the eventual development of COPD. Whatever the underlying cause, COPD can lead you to need oxygen therapy.
If you have or develop COPD, your lungs aren’t getting the airflow they need to take care of your body. In some cases, your airways and air sacs lose the elasticity they need to function, or they create more mucus than is necessary and clog themselves. Other times, the walls between the airways and air sacs become inflamed or get destroyed. These scenarios could all require someone to rely on oxygen therapy either during certain physical activities or all the time.
After the international pandemic that was COVID-19, more people became aware of how viral diseases can cause long-lasting consequences that require medical attention. When a viral disease infiltrates the body, it can cause the air sacs in the lungs to fill with fluid. When these sacs are full of fluid instead of oxygen, you may feel like you can’t breathe and experience shortness of breath. Your body also can’t get the oxygen it needs to function.
Pneumonia and COVID-19 are the two most well-known viral diseases that affect the lungs in this way. While some people fully recover from these diseases, others experience long-term side effects that require continued treatment. People experiencing long-term side effects that hurt their breathing should talk to their doctors. Many will receive a temporary or permanent prescription for oxygen therapy.
Almost 40,000 people in the United States have cystic fibrosis (CF), a hereditary autoimmune disease. Even though it’s hereditary, some people who don’t experience severe symptoms don’t receive a diagnosis until later in life. CF affects the lungs, pancreas, liver, intestines, sinuses, and in some cases, the sex organs. The most common symptom, and the reason some people with CF require oxygen therapy, is that the lungs secrete too much mucus, which clogs them and makes it difficult for people to breathe. This extra mucus can also trap extra bacteria, which leads to people with CF easily getting sick.
There is no cure for cystic fibrosis. No matter whether someone is diagnosed as a child or an adult, there is only treatment to help manage the symptoms. While people with mild CF may only require medication and breathing treatments, those with severe CF will often need oxygen therapy to help their body get the oxygen it needs to function. In some cases, CF patients can also receive lung transplants, which may eliminate the need for oxygen therapy.
No one knows the exact cause of asthma, but many doctors suspect that it comes from a combination of genetics and a person’s environment. The severity of an individual’s asthma can depend on these factors, as well as other health factors. There are also multiple kinds of asthma with various triggers, which can complicate the diagnosis, though not the treatment. Asthma is a lung disease, and medical professionals know how to treat it, often using oxygen therapy.
Those with allergen asthma can experience breathing difficulty when their asthma is triggered by something in their environment that they’re allergic to, such as dust, pets, and pollen. People with nonallergic asthma can experience breathing difficulty when they have an infection, take certain medication, or breathe in a form of pollution, such as smoke. In some cases, people experience occupational asthma, which is caused by breathing in industrial chemicals or dust, or exercise-induced asthma, which is caused by overexertion, especially during exercise. If any of these forms of asthma cause people to continuously struggle to breathe, their doctors may prescribe oxygen therapy.
When people first hear about heart failure, they don’t expect it to affect someone’s lungs. However, the heart is responsible for running most of the body, as the body needs blood and the oxygen within it to function. If the heart can’t properly pump blood, it will affect every part of the body, especially the lungs. Most people who have heart failure are older than 65 and have an additional disease, such as coronary heart disease or diabetes, although an individual’s age and other pre-existing conditions aren’t required for a heart failure diagnosis.
Depending on the cause of the heart failure, doctors may treat this disease in different ways. If the cause is an underlying condition such as diabetes, most doctors will focus on treating that disease first in hopes of alleviating the heart failure symptoms. However, if the heart failure continues to worsen, no matter the cause, then the body may need additional help functioning. This is when a doctor normally prescribes oxygen therapy. When the heart is struggling to pump blood throughout the body, being on oxygen therapy guarantees that the oxygen that does get through the body is more highly concentrated, taking some of the pressure off the heart.
Another common condition that can require oxygen therapy is sleep apnea. While this condition only affects someone while they sleep, it still requires treatment. When someone has sleep apnea, their breathing is either dangerously shallow while they sleep, or they experience moments where they stop breathing altogether. Most of the time, this is caused by a collapsed or blocked airway. This collapse or blockage is caused by the soft tissues of the throat relaxing too much during sleep or when the brain fails to tell the body to continue to breathe.
Regardless of the cause of sleep apnea, treatment is required. Some people are prescribed machines that help their body sleep, while others are recommended lifestyle changes to help mitigate some of the factors that may lead to this condition, such as weight. In some cases, people with sleep apnea may also need oxygen during the night to ensure their body is breathing and getting the oxygen it needs. Individuals can easily connect an oxygen concentrator to a sleep apnea machine so that they can breathe throughout the night.
The six common conditions that may require oxygen therapy are COPD, viral diseases, cystic fibrosis, asthma, heart failure, and sleep apnea. If you’ve recently been diagnosed with any of these conditions and need an affordable refurbished oxygen concentrator, Bridge to Care is happy to help. Our pre-owned concentrators are rigorously tested and reconditioned to ensure they’re safe for you to use and gentle on your wallet.