Severe COPD can lead to low blood oxygen levels. To treat this, people with severe COPD may require oxygen therapy to increase oxygen levels in their blood and improve oxygen supply to their organs.

People who experience low blood oxygen levels due to severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may require oxygen therapy to boost their blood oxygen levels and reduce the risk of organ damage. This can help to reduce fatigue and other symptoms of low blood oxygen.

This article describes what COPD is and how it affects blood oxygen levels. We also provide information on oxygen treatment for severe COPD.

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COPD is an umbrella term for two lung diseases: Emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Emphysema involves damage to the air sacs or “alveoli” within the lungs, while chronic bronchitis involves inflammation of the airways connected to the lungs.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease may cause the following respiratory symptoms:

Because COPD reduces oxygen levels in the blood, people may experience additional symptoms, such as:


Most cases of COPD are due to exposure to tobacco smoke or other lung irritants, such as:

  • air pollution
  • chemical fumes
  • dust

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), exposure to these irritants can cause COPD via the following mechanisms:

  • reducing elasticity of the airways and the alveoli within the lungs
  • causing inflammation and destruction of the the walls between the alveoli
  • triggering excessive mucus production, which blocks the airways

Body organs, tissues, and cells require oxygen to function properly. In COPD, damage to the lungs and airways reduces the amount of oxygen the lungs are able to take in. This, in turn, reduces the amount of oxygen that passes from the lungs into the bloodstream. COPD hypoxemia is the medical term for low oxygen levels in the blood.

COPD hypoxemia can lead to the related condition, “COPD hypoxia.” This is where the body’s organs and tissues do not receive enough oxygen to function effectively.

People who experience hypoxemia may require oxygen therapy to increase their blood oxygen levels. This therapy involves using an oxygen tank to deliver additional oxygen through a face mask or a tube in the nose or mouth.

Oxygen therapy can help people with COPD to:

  • perform daily tasks with fewer symptoms
  • sleep with fewer disruptions
  • protect their heart and lungs
  • live longer

Doctors can provide oxygen therapy in a hospital setting or a person’s home. People who use oxygen treatments at home require portable oxygen tanks. These are usually metal cylinders that contain compressed oxygen.

Some people will require a constant supply of oxygen, while others may only require oxygen at certain times. Those who require constant oxygen may use liquid oxygen devices that are lighter and more portable.

Receiving a prescription for oxygen treatment

A person who is just starting oxygen treatment will require tests from their doctor. The tests will determine how much oxygen is in the person’s blood while they are resting and moving. Doctors will use the results of these tests to prescribe an appropriate type and level of oxygen treatment.

Oxygen suppliers are companies that provide oxygen and oxygen devices. They should also provide guidance and information on how to use these devices. Suppliers will rely on the doctor’s prescription to deliver the right type and amount of oxygen.

COPD typically starts with mild symptoms that worsen over time. There is currently no cure for COPD, and people living with the condition require lifelong treatment. Timely and effective COPD treatment can help people manage their symptoms and maintain a good quality of life.

The type of treatment a person receives will depend on their COPD severity and overall health. Most people with COPD need to make certain lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking or avoiding airborne irritants. Oxygen therapy is usually only necessary in severe cases of COPD.

People with COPD are at increased risk of certain complications. For example, they are more likely to experience severe illness from influenza or other respiratory infections. As such, doctors may recommend flu vaccinations, pneumonia vaccinations, and COVID-19 vaccinations to help reduce these risks.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive lung disease that affects breathing.

Some people with COPD may experience hypoxemia and hypoxia. Hypoxemia is when blood oxygen levels are lower than average. Hypoxia is when the organs are unable to function effectively due to insufficient oxygen supply.

People with COPD-related hypoxemia or hypoxia may require oxygen therapy to increase oxygen levels in their blood and improve oxygen supply to their organs. Oxygen treatment involves receiving additional oxygen through tubes or a face mask connected to an oxygen cylinder.

Some people will require constant oxygen treatment, while others may only require oxygen at certain times. A doctor will perform tests to determine the type and amount of oxygen treatment a person needs.