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Who needs oxygen therapy?

Are you short of breath? We can help. VitalAire is South Africa's leading supplier of oxygen therapy services.

Who needs oxygen therapy?

Oxygen (O2) is essential for life. The air you breathe contains about 21% oxygen, which is inhaled into the lungs and diffused through membranes into the blood. When certain conditions cause a shortage of oxygen in your body, you may need “extra” oxygen to stay healthy and active.

Chronic bronchitis Airflow limitation and inflamed lungs can produce too much mucus, leading to coughing and shortness of breath.
Emphysema Enlarged air sacs in the lungs don’t allow the oxygen and carbon dioxide to move in and out of the lungs to your bloodstream.
Neuro-muscular conditions This can interfere with signals to your diaphragm and its correct function.
Heart problems This might interfere with blood being pumped to and from your lungs correctly.

What is COPD?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the most common lung disease that oxygen therapy can effectively treat. COPD is an umbrella term for two of the major breathing diseases that cause airways to become obstructed – chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

You are not alone if you have COPD

Symptoms and causes

The main symptom of COPD is breathlessness, which can get worse over time. In the beginning it may occur during activity but later even when you are resting.

Tobacco smoke (2, 3, 4) is the major cause of COPD , although indoor and outdoor exposure to pollutants are also risk factors.

Why is oxygen therapy helpful?

Oxygen is fundamental to your health. Insufficient oxygen can damage your body’s key organs – heart, brain, kidneys and muscles – even when you are not breathless. Worsening conditions can make simple activities increasingly difficult to enjoy. Doctors can prescribe oxygen therapy to help you cope with daily life.

Increasing the oxygen in your blood with oxygen therapy provides benefits that include(4-5):

  • Prolonged life. 
  • Feeling less tired and less short of breath.
  • Increased ability to move about and socialize.
  • Increased sleep and quality of life.
  • Improved heart function.


1. Toelle B, Xuan W, Bird T, Abramson M, Burton D, Hunter M, Johns D, Maguire G, Wood-Baker R, Marks G: COPD in the Australian burden of lung disease (BOLD) study. Respirology 2011;16 (Suppl 1):12

2. Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease. Global Strategy for the diagnosis management and prevention of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Updated 2014; available at

3. ERS. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in: European lung white book. available at WHO, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Fact sheet N°315, January 2015. Available at; consulted on 05/11/2014 B, Xuan

4. Nocturnal Oxygen Therapy Trial Group. Continuous or nocturnal oxygen therapy in hypoxemic chronic obstructive lung disease: a clinical trial. Ann Intern Med 1980; 93: 391-398

5. Report of the Medical Research Council Working Party. Long-term domiciliary oxygen therapy in chronic hypoxic cor pulmonale complicating chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Lancet 1981; 1: 681-686