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The Benefits of Oxygen Therapy

Improve Your Health, Well-Being, Social Life and More


Updated February 22, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Studies suggest that, despite its many health benefits, adherence to long-term oxygen therapy (LTOT) is challenging for many people, presenting itself with a number of significant barriers. Some of the issues that patients frequently cite with oxygen therapy, as well as their reasons for non-compliance, include: its difficulty of use, self-consciousness and/or a sense of social stigma for using it, lack of understanding of its perceived benefit, and fear of accompanying side effects. If any of this sounds familiar and you're not using supplemental oxygen correctly, learning to recognize the benefits of oxygen therapy, rather than the negative aspects, may help you look at it in an entirely different light, which will have a positive impact on your health.

1. Increases Survival

Oxygen Therapy
Photo courtesy of Getty Images, user Photodisc.
By far, the most important benefit of LTOT for people with COPD is that, when used a minimum of 15 hours per day, it prolongs life. In fact, the average survival for those using LTOT for at least 18 hours a day is approximately two times longer than in those who don't use supplemental oxygen. Despite this evidence, studies show that the average number of hours that a patient uses daily supplemental oxygen is typically less than what her physician prescribes. Voluntary under-use of oxygen therapy can limit its effectiveness. If you're a patient who's been prescribed LTOT, it's important for you to recognize when you're not in compliance with your current 02 treatment program and to discuss possible alternative oxygen delivery strategies with your health care provider.

2. Reduces COPD Complications

Complications of COPD
COPD is associated with a number of complications that can significantly impact your quality of life. These include pulmonary hypertension, secondary polycythemia and cor pulmonale, a form of heart failure. Supplemental oxygen helps reduce COPD complications by stabilizing pulmonary hypertension, reducing secondary polycythemia, and decreasing arrythmias (irregular heart rhythms) and EKG findings suggestive of myocardial ischemia (a lack of oxygen to the heart). Additionally, according to the American Lung Association, oxygen therapy helps prevent heart failure in people who have severe lung diseases like COPD.

3. Lessons COPD Symptoms

COPD Symptoms
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Dyspnea, the hallmark symptom of COPD, is also the most disabling and difficult to control. In patients who need it, supplemental oxygen can help relieve dyspnea and other symptoms related to COPD, including fatigue, dizziness and depression.

4. Improves Health-Related Quality of Life

Sex and COPD
Courtesy of flickr.com, user kthschssir
When you don't get an adequate supply of oxygen, every organ in your body is affected, which eventually takes a toll on your health and well-being. Using supplemental oxygen has a positive impact on health-related quality of life. Not only does it improve sleep and mood, but it increases mental alertness and stamina, allowing you to get more done during the day. Moreover, it may reduce the number of exacerbations and hospitalizations associated with COPD.

5. Increases Exercise Tolerance

Photo courtesy of Getty Images, photographer David Hallett
Exercise is one of the most important aspects of COPD management; in fact, a regular physical training program can increase survival and improve quality of life in COPD. But many patients have poor exercise tolerance that dramatically limits their ability to exercise. Studies suggest that using oxygen during exercise improves exercise endurance, heightens exercise performance and ultimately decreases the sensation of breathlessness.

6. Improves Your Sex Life

Impotence is a common occurrence among men who have COPD. One study showed that 42 percent of sexually impotent men with COPD experienced reversal of sexual impotence when they used LTOT for at least one month. Additionally, using supplemental oxygen during sex can help you prolong intimacy, an added benefit for both partners.

7. Makes Air Travel Safer

Airplane Travel and COPD
Photo courtesy of istockphoto.com, user egdigital
It's not uncommon for patients with COPD to experience severe hypoxemia when they travel by airplane. Supplemental oxygen during air travel helps patients prevent severe hypoxemia and can benefit many patients, even those who don't normally use oxygen. If you experience severe COPD symptoms when you travel, talk to your healthcare provider about using supplemental oxygen when you fly.

8. Improves Your Social Life

COPD and Alcohol
Photo courtesy of Getty Images, user Thinkstock

How many times has COPD interfered with your social life? If breathlessness prevents you from enjoying a movie or dinner invitation, maybe it's time you look into using supplemental oxygen by way of a portable oxygen concentrator. Extremely lightweight and compact, portable oxygen concentrators are much more versatile than their home-based counterparts, allowing you freedom and independence to go about your business in the usual fashion. And many are paid for by Medicare. If COPD often puts a damper in your plans, talk to your health care provider about going portable.

Compare prices of portable oxygen concentrators.


Aasebø U., et. al. Reversal of sexual impotence in male patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and hypoxemia with long-term oxygen therapy.. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 1993 Dec;46(6):799-803.

Croxton, Thomas L., et. al. 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.

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. doi: 10.1164/rccm.200212-1525OC.

Ma Rosa Güell Rous. Long-term oxygen therapy: Are we prescribing appropriately?Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2008 June; 3(2): 231–237. Published online 2008 June.PMCID:PMC2629963.

Stoller, James K. MD, MS, FCCP et. al. Oxygen Therapy for Patients With COPD: Current Evidence and the Long-Term Oxygen Treatment Trial. Chest. 2010 July; 138(1): 179–187. doi: 10.1378/chest.09-2555. PMCID: PMC2897694.

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