Around 16 million adults int eh US are estimated to have COPD, with an additional 4 million possible undiagnosed. The condition is the 3rd leading cause of death in the US, making it necessary for individuals to recognize symptoms, diagnose, and take suitable remedial or preventive measures. A common symptom among patients with the condition is lowered oxygen levels, and this could help in seeking quick treatment. Following sub sections offer a detailed look at the condition, and also offers answer to the question – what is the normal oxygen level for someone with COPD?
Overview of COPD
Acronym for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, this is progressive lung disease causing difficulty in breathing apart from airflow obstruction. Various lung diseases, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema all belong to the category of COPD. In patients with chronic bronchitis, the airways are inflamed, producing excessive mucus; and this results in chronic cough along with difficulty in breathing. In patients with emphysema, the air sacs in the lungs are damaged, impacting ability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide.
The primary cause of COPD is tobacco smoking, though irritants including air pollution, dust and chemicals are causative factors for the development of the condition. Presently, there is no cure for COPD, and all treatment options essentially help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. This includes the use of bronchodilator medications, inhaled corticosteroids, oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation, and lifestyle changes. For instance, individuals will have to quit smoking and avoid environmental irritants.
What are the symptoms of COPD?
Symptoms of COPD may vary from person to person, and is likely to develop gradually over time. Common symptoms of COPD include:
- Shortness of breath, typically during physical activity
- Chronic cough, often with mucus
- Chest tightness/discomfort
- Fatigue/low energy levels
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Bluish coloration of lips/fingernail beds
- Swelling in the ankles, feet, or legs
- Unintended weight loss
Symptoms can either be mild or severe in nature and can considerably impact the quality of life. In advanced stages of COPD, the symptoms aggravate, and turn frequent and severe. This could impact daily activities, and may also eventually result in respiratory failure.
What is the normal oxygen level for someone with COPD?
With the basic information, it is time to answer the above question. Patients with the condition, are likely to have a normal range of oxygen saturation (SpO2) that could be slightly lower than the range for individuals without COPD. The typical range of oxygen saturation for a healthy individual is 95-100%, but for people with COPD, the range is likely to be 88-92%. This is because the lung function is often compromised, and blood oxygen levels will be lower as a result of the reduced airflow in the lungs. However, oxygen saturation levels may vary, and depends on various factors including age, altitude, health status, and other medical conditions.
Different treatment options for patients with COPD
The treatment for COPD is intended to relieve symptoms, slow down the progression of the disease, and improve the overall quality of life. Treatment options for COPD typically includes the following:
#1 Medications: Bronchodilators relax the muscles in the airways, corticosteroids reduce inflammation in the airways, and antibiotics treat respiratory infections.
#2 Oxygen therapy: Supplemental oxygen therapy increases the amount of oxygen in the blood, improving breathing, and reducing shortness of breath.
#3 Pulmonary rehabilitation: Pulmonary rehabilitation includes exercise, breathing techniques, and awareness about managing COPD. This helps improve breathing, increase exercise tolerance, and reduce hospitalizations.
#4 Surgery: This may be recommended in rare instances, to remove damaged lung tissue, to improve lung function and symptoms.
#5 Lifestyle changes: This helps manage COPD symptoms, improving overall health. This includes quitting smoking, avoiding exposure to irritants and a healthy diet, apart from staying physically active.
#6 Vaccinations: Annual influenza vaccination and a one-time pneumococcal vaccine help patients with COPD to reduce the risk of respiratory infections.
Will oxygen levels increase when COPD is treated?
Treating COPD can help increase oxygen levels in the blood, particularly when supplemental oxygen therapy is used. This improves breathing, especially in patients with severe COPD with low oxygen saturation levels. Other treatments for COPD, such as medications and pulmonary rehabilitation, can also improve lung function, reduce inflammation, and improve symptoms, indirectly increasing oxygen levels in the blood. Lifestyle changes slow down the progression of COPD, thereby improving lung function.
The extent to which oxygen levels increase will depend on the severity and stage of COPD, apart from factors such as age, overall health status, and other medical conditions.
What needs to be done when oxygen levels dip in patients with COPD?
When oxygen levels dip in patients with COPD, it is important to take action to prevent further complications, including the following:
- Supplemental oxygen: When the oxygen saturation levels are low, supplemental oxygen therapy is required. This is to be carried out only under the guidance of a healthcare provider who will determine the appropriate oxygen flow rate and duration of therapy.
- Look for signs of respiratory distress: Caregivers are to check if the patient is experiencing shortness of breath or difficulty breathing in such instances, it is important to seek immediate medical intervention to prevent respiratory emergency that could be serious in nature. It is necessary to seek assistance from a suitable healthcare facility with the required infrastructure for triaging and treatment of respiratory distress.
How do COPD medications work to offer relief?
Medications used to treat COPD include bronchodilators, inhaled corticosteroids, and combination inhalers. Bronchodilators relax the muscles around the airways, making it easier to breathe, and are of two types – beta-agonists and anticholinergics. Beta-agonists stimulate the beta-receptors in the lungs, while anticholinergics block the action of neurotransmitters that cause constriction of the airways.
Inhaled corticosteroids reduce inflammation in the airways, preventing exacerbations of COPD. Combination inhalers contain both bronchodilator and inhaled corticosteroids in a single inhaler. These medications are more convenient for some patients, offering better treatment. Other medications include phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors, that are known to reduce lung inflammation, and antibiotics, to treat exacerbations of COPD caused by bacterial infections.