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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.

Paget's Disease of Bone

What is Paget's disease of bone?

Paget's disease of bone is a chronic bone disorder. Normally, there is a process in which your bones break down and then regrow. In Paget's disease, this process is abnormal. There is excessive breakdown and regrowth of bone. Because the bones regrow too quickly, they are bigger and softer than normal. They may be misshapen and easily fractured (broken). Paget's usually affects just one or a few bones.

What causes Paget's disease of bone?

Researchers do not know for sure what causes Paget's disease. Environmental factors may play a role. In some cases, the disease runs in families, and several genes have been linked to the disease.

Who is at risk for Paget's disease of bone?

The disease is more common in older people and those of northern European heritage. If you have a close relative who has Paget's, you are much more likely to have it.

What are the symptoms of Paget's disease of bone?

Many people do not know that they have Paget's, because it often has no symptoms. When there are symptoms, they are similar to those of arthritis and other disorders. The symptoms include:

  • Pain, which may be due to the disease or to arthritis, which can be a complication of Paget's
  • Headaches and hearing loss, which can happen when Paget's disease affects the skull
  • Pressure on the nerves, which can happen when Paget's disease affects the skull or spine
  • Increased head size, bowing of a limb, or curvature of the spine. This can happen in advanced cases.
  • Hip pain, if Paget's disease affects the pelvis or thighbone
  • Damage to the cartilage of your joints, which may lead to arthritis

Usually, Paget's disease gets worse slowly over time. It does not spread to normal bones.

What other problems can Paget's disease of bone cause?

Paget's disease can lead to other complications, such as:

  • Arthritis, because the misshapen bones can cause increased pressure and more wear and tear on the joints
  • Heart failure. In severe Paget's disease, the heart has to work harder to pump blood to affected bones. Heart failure is more likely if you also have hardening of the arteries.
  • Kidney stones, which can happen when the excessive breakdown of the bone leads to extra calcium in the body
  • Nervous system problems, since the bones can cause pressure on the brain, spinal cord, or nerves. There may also be reduced blood flow to the brain and spinal cord.
  • Osteosarcoma, cancer of the bone
  • Loose teeth, if Paget's disease affects the facial bones
  • Vision loss, if Paget's disease in the skull affects the nerves. This is rare.
How is Paget's disease of bone diagnosed?

Your health care provider may use many tools to make a diagnosis:

  • A medical history, which includes asking about your symptoms
  • A physical exam
  • An x-ray of the affected bones. Paget's disease is almost always diagnosed using x-rays.
  • An alkaline phosphatase blood test
  • A bone scan

Sometimes the disease is found by accident when one of these tests is done for another reason.

What are the treatments for Paget's disease of bone?

To avoid complications, it is important to find and treat Paget's disease early. The treatments include:

  • Medicines. There are several different medicines to treat Paget's disease. The most common type is bisphosphonates. They help reduce bone pain and stop or slow down the progress of the disease.
  • Surgery is sometimes needed for certain complications of the disease. There are surgeries to
    • Allow fractures (broken bones) to heal in a better position
    • Replace joints such as the knee and hip when there is severe arthritis
    • Realign a deformed bone to reduce the pain in weight-bearing joints, especially the knees
    • Reduce pressure on a nerve, if enlargement of the skull or spine injuries effects the nervous system

Diet and exercise do not treat Paget's, but they can help to keep your skeleton healthy. If you do not have kidney stones, you should make sure to get enough calcium and vitamin D through your diet and supplements. Besides keeping your skeleton healthy, exercise can prevent weight gain and maintain the mobility of your joints. Talk with your health care provider before you start a new exercise program. You need to make sure that the exercise does not put too much stress on the affected bones.

NIH: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's disease (PD) is a type of movement disorder. It happens when nerve cells in the brain don't produce enough of a brain chemical called dopamine. Sometimes it is genetic, but most cases do not seem to run in families. Exposure to chemicals in the environment might play a role.

Symptoms begin gradually, often on one side of the body. Later they affect both sides. They include:

  • Trembling of hands, arms, legs, jaw and face
  • Stiffness of the arms, legs and trunk
  • Slowness of movement
  • Poor balance and coordination

As symptoms get worse, people with the disease may have trouble walking, talking, or doing simple tasks. They may also have problems such as depression, sleep problems, or trouble chewing, swallowing, or speaking.

There is no specific test for PD, so it can be difficult to diagnose. Doctors use a medical history and a neurological examination to diagnose it.

PD usually begins around age 60, but it can start earlier. It is more common in men than in women. There is no cure for PD. A variety of medicines sometimes help symptoms dramatically. Surgery and deep brain stimulation (DBS) can help severe cases. With DBS, electrodes are surgically implanted in the brain. They send electrical pulses to stimulate the parts of the brain that control movement.

NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Statins

Statins are drugs used to lower cholesterol. Your body needs some cholesterol to work properly. But if you have too much in your blood, it can stick to the walls of your arteries and narrow or even block them.

If diet and exercise don't reduce your cholesterol levels, you may need to take cholesterol medicine. Often, this medicine is a statin. Statins interfere with the production of cholesterol in your liver. They lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels. This can slow the formation of plaques in your arteries.

Statins are relatively safe for most people. But they are not recommended for pregnant patients or those with active or chronic liver disease. They can also cause serious muscle problems. Some statins also interact adversely with other drugs. You may have fewer side effects with one statin drug than another.

Researchers are also studying the use of statins for other conditions.

Food and Drug Administration

Stem Cells

Stem cells are cells with the potential to develop into many different types of cells in the body. They serve as a repair system for the body. There are two main types of stem cells: embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells.

Stem cells are different from other cells in the body in three ways:

  • They can divide and renew themselves over a long time
  • They are unspecialized, so they cannot do specific functions in the body
  • They have the potential to become specialized cells, such as muscle cells, blood cells, and brain cells

Doctors and scientists are excited about stem cells because they could help in many different areas of health and medical research. Studying stem cells may help explain how serious conditions such as birth defects and cancer come about. Stem cells may one day be used to make cells and tissues for therapy of many diseases. Examples include Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, spinal cord injury, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis.

NIH: National Institutes of Health