HomeHealth TopicRespiratory

Oxygen Therapy, Explained in 90 Seconds

In this video, learn what oxygen therapy is, the different types of oxygen therapy, and how it can treat a wide range of acute and chronic lung conditions.

Lauren SmithPreeti Parikh, MD
Written by Lauren Smith | Reviewed by Preeti Parikh, MD
Published on July 15, 2020

Oxygen is essential for life: It feeds every cell in your body to help your organs function optimally. When things are working right, your lungs inhale oxygen and send it into your bloodstream. Then, your arteries distribute oxygen to the rest of your body.

However, a wide range of problems can affect the amount of oxygen your body gets. Lung dysfunction or problems with blood flow can inhibit oxygen levels in your body: This is called hypoxia, and it can be dangerous and even life-threatening.

Oxygen Therapy to Treat Hypoxia

Oxygen therapy is a way to deliver concentrated oxygen into the body in order to resume healthy oxygen levels. This can help reduce symptoms and complications of hypoxia. As a result, it can also improve quality of life.

Oxygen therapy uses either a face mask or a nasal tube. For the latter, two prongs go into the nostrils to deliver oxygen. Then, the mask or tube is connected to an oxygen tank, which may or may not be portable.

When It's Used

Oxygen therapy may be a short-term treatment for acute conditions (such as pneumonia or an asthma attack). Alternatively, it may be a long-term solution for chronic conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or late-stage heart failure.

In the case of long-term oxygen therapy, the patient would likely use a portable oxygen tank. This allows them to be mobile and keep oxygen levels up while out and about. There are even oxygen concentrator tanks, which pull in oxygen from the air and purify it. This means you don't need to get oxygen tank refills.

Oxygen therapy devices vary widely, so you’ll need to talk to your doctor to learn how to use your exact model. For a basic overview, find out how to use oxygen in metal tanks here, and learn more about using portable oxygen concentrators here.

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