More than 14 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD. However, as many as 24 million suffer from impaired lung function, indicating that the disease is severely undiagnosed. The costs associated with medical expenditures and loss of income for COPD patients are more than $32 billion each year.
COPD is the umbrella term for airflow obstruction associated with chronic bronchitis and emphysema. It is a slowly progressive, incurable disease that causes irreversible loss of lung function. Though existing medications have not proved beneficial n reversing its effects, home oxygen therapy — when properly prescribed and maintained — can slow or stop lung degeneration.
“This is a major national health problem, and it is important to raise awareness among consumers as well as health care providers and policymakers to encourage prevention and early detection of this debilitating disease,” said Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), chairman of the Congressional COPD Caucus, in a news release.
Six Truths About Oxygen
The following myth busters regarding oxygen are from The Cleveland Clinic Foundation and also the American Association of Homecare (AAHomecare).
- Truth: Many people have discontinued oxygen use after other appropriate treatments have taken effect.
- Truth: People who need oxygen are NOT confined to their homes and can do anything, including travel. Lightweight oxygen containers may need replenishment, but patients using portable oxygen concentrators or liquid oxygen can travel away from home. Small base stations in cars can be used to refill liquid oxygen, and portable oxygen concentrators operate off multiple power sources. With the new FAA ruling that permits airlines to allow the use of two approved portable oxygen concentrators during flights, even air travel is now more feasible.
- Truth: Oxygen is NOT for patients who are near the end of life. In fact, catching oxygen problems early can lead to a longer, fuller life for many patients. Airway obstruction is a gradual process. Unfortunately, most patients do not seek medical treatment until their lung function has decreased by 50 percent. The lung damage is irreversible, but the rate of decline can be slowed through long-term oxygen therapy and the quality of life can be significantly improved.
- Truth: Long-term oxygen therapy must be monitored and re-evaluated to ensure the patient is properly oxygenated and the equipment is meeting accessibility needs.
- Truth: Oxygen therapy is NOT only for smokers. Although smoking is the primary cause of COPD, it is only one of a number of factors that can result in a patient needing supplemental oxygen. Other factors include inhaling certain irritants such as secondhand smoke, organic dusts and pollution over an extended time period; weakened lungs as a result of asthma or a severe respiratory infection during childhood; and genetic disorders.
- Truth: Oxygen units are NOT heavy and obtrusive. With today’s technological advances, oxygen patients can be very mobile. Portable oxygen concentrators weigh only 10 lbs., operate on a battery and can generate oxygen. Liquid oxygen can be as light as 4 lbs. and provide significant mobility.
For more information on COPD and home oxygen, check out Inspiration, the respiratory supplement of Home Health Products in the April 2006 issue.