How does oxygen therapy help?

The majority of evidence regarding the benefits of oxygen therapy comes from studies conducted with people diagnosed with COPD.

When used as prescribed, oxygen therapy can improve life expectancy in many people. Also, by improving the amount of oxygen that is delivered to the cells in your body, complications associated with low oxygen levels such as pulmonary hypertension can be reduced.

“Get used to using it. It will make the difference between being stuck indoors or getting out and enjoying life. You may be able to do a few more jobs around the house or garden as well.”

- Linda, 64, who has bronchiectasis, emphysema and IPF, and uses ambulatory oxygen and oxygen at night

Who will benefit from oxygen therapy?

You may be prescribed oxygen therapy if you have been diagnosed with one, or a combination, of the following conditions:

You may also be prescribed oxygen before a specific lung condition is identified.

You should be assessed by a respiratory specialist, who will advise you if extra oxygen is a useful therapy for your condition. Different lung conditions require different management and oxygen prescriptions are tailored to meet your individual needs. Oxygen therapy is not helpful for everyone with a lung condition.

Oxygen is a medical gas and is prescribed like any other medication and regulated by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. You must use your oxygen as prescribed and be monitored regularly so that your prescription can be adjusted according to your needs. Misusing oxygen can be harmful.

If you experience new symptoms of headache; a faster than normal pulse rate; or disorientation or confusion you must tell your respiratory team or GP.

It is a prescription because your body needs it. Find out all you can and ensure everyone plays their part: get the best from your medical team, those who supply the oxygen and your family and friends. Don’t let it rule your life – it is a medication!”

- Jan, 62, who has emphysema and uses oxygen over 15 hours through the day and at night

Next: When is a referral for oxygen therapy made? >

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Last medically reviewed: February 2015. Due for review: February 2018

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.