COPD: Hypoxia and Hypoxemia

According to the COPD Foundation, approximately 30 million people in United States suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, an umbrella term for a variety of diseases that affect a person’s ability to breathe. The most common forms of COPD are emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

When an individual’s airflow is obstructed for an extended period of time, inflammation of the lungs occurs, sometimes causing permanent damage. Two particularly important disorders associated with COPD are hypoxia and hypoxemia, both progressive disorders that often lead to permanent disability or death.

In a healthy individual, oxygenated blood travels from the lungs to other parts of the body. When a person’s lungs become severely damaged, only an insufficient supply of oxygen is available to the air sacs within the lungs, leading to a lack of adequate oxygenated blood supply for the entire body. This condition is known as hypoxia.

Although the body can adapt to minor deficiencies in its oxygen level, severe hypoxia causes a deficiency in the amount of oxygen the body needs to remain healthy. This condition is known as hypoxemia.

The entire body, and in particular, the heart and the brain, need a sufficient amount of oxygen to remain healthy. Since the heart and brain are extremely sensitive to diminished levels of oxygen, hypoxemia can lead to both cardiovascular disease (especially in the form of pulmonary hypertension) and neurocognitive disorders.

The main symptom of hypoxia is shortness of breath.

Hypoxemia has five main symptoms:

  1. Frequent coughing
  2. Extreme shortness of breath
  3. Difficulty tolerating physical activity
  4. Rapid breathing
  5. Waking up in the middle of the night unable to catch one’s breath

Although COPD is a progressive condition, meaning that it gets worse with time, there are a series of treatments that can help make daily life more comfortable and more “normal.” The most common treatments include:

  1. Bronchodilator therapy: This treatment is similar to what is given to individuals having asthma attacks
  2. Oral or inhaled corticosteroids
  3. Oxygen therapy: According to research published in the International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases, individuals with severe COPD are most likely to benefit from oxygen therapy.

The most important thing for anyone with COPD? To put their care in the hands of the best pulmonay specialists.

Laurel Bay Health and Rehabilitation Center, in the scenic beach town of Keansburg, NJ, specializes in pulmonary care. Headed by leading pulmonary specialist Dr. Avtar Parhar, our program is the most highly advanced pulmonary rehabilitation program in Monmouth County. At Laurel Bay, we focus on restorative and preventive care for those who suffer with chronic respiratory disease.

Read our reviews on, wellness.comand to hear what our residents and their families have to say.

Or better yet, come see for yourself. Contact us to schedule a tour by clicking here or by calling (372) 787-8100.

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