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Lung Diseases

When you breathe, your lungs take in oxygen from the air and deliver it to the bloodstream. The cells in your body need oxygen to work and grow. During a normal day, you breathe nearly 25,000 times. People with lung disease have difficulty breathing. Millions of people in the U.S. have lung disease. If all types of lung disease are lumped together, it is the number three killer in the United States.

The term lung disease refers to many disorders affecting the lungs, such as asthma, COPD, infections like influenza, pneumonia and tuberculosis, lung cancer, and many other breathing problems. Some lung diseases can lead to respiratory failure.

Dept. of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health

Oxygen Therapy

What is oxygen?

Oxygen is a gas that your body needs to work properly. Your cells need oxygen to make energy. Your lungs absorb oxygen from the air you breathe. The oxygen enters your blood from your lungs and travels to your organs and body tissues.

Certain medical conditions can cause your blood oxygen levels to be too low. Low blood oxygen may make you feel short of breath, tired, and confused. It can also damage your body. Oxygen therapy can help you get more oxygen.

What is oxygen therapy?

Oxygen therapy is a treatment that provides you with extra oxygen to breathe in. It is also called supplemental oxygen. It is only available through a prescription from your health care provider. You may get it in the hospital, another medical setting, or at home. Some people only need it for a short period of time. Others will need long-term oxygen therapy.

There are different types of devices that can give you oxygen. Some use tanks of liquid or gas oxygen. Others use an oxygen concentrator, which pulls oxygen out of the air. You will get the oxygen through a nose tube (cannula), a mask, or a tent. The extra oxygen is breathed in along with normal air.

There are portable versions of the tanks and oxygen concentrators. They can make it easier for you to move around while using your therapy.

Who needs oxygen therapy?

You may need oxygen therapy if you have a condition that causes low blood oxygen, such as:

  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Pneumonia
  • COVID-19
  • A severe asthma attack
  • Late-stage heart failure
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Sleep apnea
What are the risks of using oxygen therapy?

Oxygen therapy is generally safe, but it can cause side effects. They include a dry or bloody nose, tiredness, and morning headaches.

Oxygen poses a fire risk, so you should never smoke or use flammable materials when using oxygen. If you use oxygen tanks, make sure your tank is secured and stays upright. If it falls and cracks or the top breaks off, the tank can fly like a missile.

What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a different type of oxygen therapy. It involves breathing oxygen in a pressurized chamber or tube. That allows your lungs to gather up to three times more oxygen than you would get by breathing oxygen at normal air pressure. The extra oxygen moves through your blood and to your organs and body tissues.

HBOT is used to treat certain serious wounds, burns, injuries, and infections. It also treats air or gas embolisms (bubbles of air in your bloodstream), decompression sickness suffered by divers, and carbon monoxide poisoning.

But some treatment centers claim that HBOT can treat almost anything, including Alzheimer's disease, autism, cancer, and Lyme disease. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not cleared or approved the use of HBOT for these conditions. There are risks to using HBOT, so always check with your provider before you try it.

Plague

Plague is an infection caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. The bacteria are found mainly in rats and in the fleas that feed on them. People and other animals can get plague from rat or flea bites. In the past, plague destroyed entire civilizations. Today plague is uncommon, due to better living conditions and antibiotics.

There are three forms of plague:

  • Bubonic plague causes the tonsils, adenoids, spleen, and thymus to become inflamed. Symptoms include fever, aches, chills, and tender lymph glands.
  • In septicemic plague, bacteria multiply in the blood. It causes fever, chills, shock, and bleeding under the skin or other organs.
  • Pneumonic plague is the most serious form. Bacteria enter the lungs and cause pneumonia. People with the infection can spread this form to others. This type could be a bioterror agent.

Lab tests can diagnose plague. Treatment is a strong antibiotic. There is no vaccine.

Pneumococcal Infections

Pneumococci are a type of streptococcus bacteria. The bacteria spread through contact with people who are ill or by healthy people who carry the bacteria in the back of their nose. Pneumococcal infections can be mild or severe. The most common types of infections are:

  • Ear infections
  • Sinus infections
  • Pneumonia
  • Sepsis
  • Meningitis

How the diagnosis is made depends upon where the infection is. Your doctor will do a physical exam and ask about your medical history. Possible tests may include blood, imaging, or lab tests. Treatment is with antibiotics. Vaccines can prevent pneumococcal infections. There are two vaccines. One is for infants and young children. The other is for people at high risk, including those who are over 65 years old, have chronic illnesses or weak immune systems, smoke, have asthma, or live in long-term care facilities.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Poisoning

A poison is any substance that is harmful to your body. You might swallow it, inhale it, inject it, or absorb it through your skin. Any substance can be poisonous if too much is taken. Poisons can include:

  • Prescription or over-the-counter medicines taken in doses that are too high
  • Overdoses of illegal drugs
  • Carbon monoxide from gas appliances
  • Household products, such as laundry powder or furniture polish
  • Pesticides
  • Indoor or outdoor plants
  • Metals such as lead and mercury

The effects of poisoning range from short-term illness to brain damage, coma, and death. To prevent poisoning it is important to use and store products exactly as their labels say. Keep dangerous products where children can't get to them. Treatment for poisoning depends on the type of poison. If you suspect someone has been poisoned, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 right away.