Apple Watches Could Measure Your Blood Oxygen Levels

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When the people at iFixit took the new Apple Watch apart they found something strange, there wasn’t the expected optical module you usually find to measure your blood flow rate but there is a pulse-oximeter which can measure your oxygen levels.

It works by shining a light through your skin and it measures changes in your blood flow. As your pulse increases it changes the light transmission through the skin which a sensor measures. Additionally it can test how oxygen levels affect the way your blood interacts with light. The more oxygen in your blood, the brighter the red of the blood and the more infrared light it absorbs.

This component is currently disabled in the Apple Watch for unknown reasons but it looks as if Apple hope in the future to allow their customers to be able to monitor their own blood oxygen levels.

Being able to do this would be incredibly useful for a lot of people. If you’re hiking you can get a better sense of how you’re adapting to high altitudes, an athlete can monitor their performance and those with medical conditions such as asthma can instantly see if their oxygen levels are dropping. For those using oxygen at home you could simultaneously see if the oxygen that you are breathing in is improving your oxygen levels. A record of your data would be stored as your activities alter throughout the day and your doctor could use these results to help improve your treatment.

There is a danger that people may use the device as a self-diagnostic tool with regards to their health. This may be one of the reasons that Apple has left it disabled for now. Also perhaps there are issues with the accuracy of the measurements. It may be that arm hair, sweat and dirt could prevent the infrared light sensors from being accurate enough.

The possibility that very soon in the future we may have yet another helpful device to help monitor our health at home is exciting and good news for many suffering chronic respiratory diseases. It would be a helpful way for many to understand how their disease affects their respiration throughout the day and enable them, with their doctor’s help, to react quickly to changes in their blood oxygen levels to improve their health and quality of life.

References:  http://thenextweb.com and http://venturebeat.com

Are There Side Effects To Oxygen Therapy?

Almost every medical treatment has risks and side effects to it, which vary in degree from person to person. The benefit of oxygen therapy is that it is not a foreign drug, we naturally use it everyday and therefore the only side effects will be due to the administration of it or because of the volume of oxygen being inhaled, which as a result dramatically reduces side effects when compared to other medical treatments. There is also the safety aspect of storing and using oxygen as it is highly combustable but as long as you follow the simple common sense safety advice from your provider you will be very safe.

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The side effects may include a dry or bloody nose, skin irritation from the nasal cannula or face mask, fatigue, tiredness and morning headaches. Some people only suffer side effects initially upon first use and then they disappear however if these problems persist then all you need to do is to inform your doctor and provider. Depending upon the problems all your doctor may need to do is to alter the oxygen flow rate or length of time you’re using the equipment.
If nose dryness is a problem then you may just require an additional nasal spray or to have a humidifier attached to your equipment to reduce the dryness effect of the oxygen.
If you experience irritation from the mask or cannula then your provider can try other devices that may fit you better and can recommend over-the-counter gels and devices designed to help lessen skin irritation.
If you use transtracheal oxygen therapy then complications can potentially be a bit more serious due to the more invasive way that the oxygen is delivered via a tube inserted into your windpipe a the front of your neck. You may develop mucus balls which can cause coughing and clog the windpipe, infection and injury to the windpipe. However as long as you follow the advice in the proper medical care and correct handling of the tube then this greatly reduces the risk of complications. Such as keeping it clean and to use suction to remove any build-up.
The majority of users find that they experience a little irritation and dryness which can be easily resolved. Their testimonials are clear in saying that the benefits of oxygen therapy such as improved quality of life, improved mobility and social interaction and longevity of life far outweigh the inconvenience of a few side effects.

References: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov and http://www.livestrong.com

How Does My Oxygen Concentrator Work?

Oxygen concentrators work on the principle of ‘rapid pressure swing adsorption’ which is where the Nitrogen is removed from the air using zeolite minerals which adsorb the Nitrogen, leaving the other gases to pass through and leaving oxygen as the primary gas. Once the oxygen is collected the pressure then drops which allows Nitrogen to desorb and be expelled back into the air.

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An oxygen concentrator has an air compressor, two cylinders filled with zeolite pellets, a pressure equalizing reservoir and valves and tubes. During the first half-cycle the first cylinder receives air from the compressor, which lasts about 3 seconds. During that time the pressure in the first cylinder rises from atmospheric to a few times normal atmospheric pressure (about 20 psi) and the zeolite becomes saturated with nitrogen. As the first cylinder reaches near pure oxygen (there are small amounts of argon, CO2, water vapour, radon and other minor atmospheric components) a valve opens and the oxygen enriched gas flows to the pressure equalizing reservoir, which connects to the patient’s oxygen hose. At the end of the first half of the cycle, the air from the compressor is directed to the 2nd cylinder. Pressure in the first cylinder drops as the enriched oxygen moves into the reservoir, allowing the nitrogen to be desorbed back into gas. Part way through the second half of the cycle there is another valve position change to vent the gas in the first cylinder back into the ambient atmosphere, keeping the concentration of oxygen in the pressure equalizing reservoir from falling below about 90%. The pressure in the hose delivering oxygen from the equalizing reservoir is kept steady by a pressure reducing valve.
Portable oxygen concentrators
These have been around for decades, but older models were bulky, unreliable, and were not allowed on airplanes. Since 2000, manufacturers have improved their reliability and size and they now produce 1-6 lpm of oxygen. The portable concentrators plug directly into a regular house outlet for charging at home or hotel, but they came with a power adapter that can usually be plugged into a vehicle DC adapter. They are able to operate from the battery power as well for either ambulatory use, or away from a power source, or on an airplane.

Portable oxygen concentrators operate on the same principle as a home domestic concentrator, operating through a series of cycles. Air passes from the miniaturised air compressor and through the molecular sieve of zeolite granules, which adsorb the nitrogen. Some of the oxygen produced is delivered to the patient and some is fed back into the sieves to clear them of the accumulated nitrogen, preparing them for the next cycle. Through this process, the system is capable of producing oxygen of up to 90% consistently. The latest models can be powered from mains electricity supply, 12v DC (car/boat etc.), and battery packs making the patient free from relying on using cylinders & other current solutions that put a restriction on their activities and mobility due to  time, weight, and size.
Most of the current portable oxygen concentrator systems provide oxygen on a pulse (on-demand) delivery in order to maximise the purity of the oxygen. The system supplies a high concentration of oxygen and is used with a nasal cannula to channel oxygen from the concentrator to the patient.

References: http://en.wikipedia.org and http://www.inogen.com and http://hme-business.com

The Difference Between Pulse And Continuous Flow

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Companies have been producing portable oxygen concentrators since 2000 and can provide oxygen via continuous flow, pulse flow or a combination of the two.

Continuous flow machines supply the patient with a continuous supply of oxygen, preferred by some patients who have very poor respiratory effort and a low oxygen level although some oxygen is wasted while the patient is exhaling and the supply can be used up quickly but do offer the patient mobility and freedom.

On-demand (also called intermittent-flow or pulse-dose) portable oxygen concentrators (POCs) are the smallest, often the size of a briefcase or picnic cooler and weigh about 2kg. They can deliver oxygen only when patients inhale which avoids any waste of oxygen when the patient exhales. Their ability to conserve oxygen and not waste it is key to keeping the units so compact as the oxygen supply will last longer. Their size allows them to be sleek and come with easy to carry bags allowing the flexibility to take these units almost anywhere, even to high altitudes, as long as there’s sufficient battery run time until the next opportunity to recharge it.

Another type of POC combines pulse and continuous-flow to meet a wider range of patient needs. These dual-supply concentrators can provide a larger volume of oxygen than smaller pulse units, however they need bigger, heavier battery supplies (otherwise the battery run time is reduced) and they are heavier, between 5 and 10kg. These dual-system converters often come with built-in wheels or a cart to make them easier to carry and move around without compromising the patient’s mobility.

There are different brands with slightly different characteristics, but the most important thing for the patient to consider when choosing which type of POC to have is their medical needs around the supply of oxygen they need.

With continuous-flow, oxygen delivery is measured in LPM (litres per minute). With pulse-flow delivery is measured by the size (in millilitres) of the ‘bolus’ of oxygen per breath, referring to the burst of oxygen released when you inhale. Other important considerations include the maximum oxygen percentage it can achieve, the number and increment of settings for adjusting oxygen flow, battery capacity and power cord options for recharging.

Your oxygen requirements during sleep is another variable. Usually pulse-flow oxygen concentrators are not used by patients while they sleep, as sometimes the machine is not able to detect when the patient is inhaling, as night-time breathing is low and shallow. Sleep apnoea patients are specifically not advised to use Pulse-flow units as they usually require a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) mask. For patients without apnoea, the use of portable concentrators during sleep is increasing as their preferred choice, especially with the addition of alarms and technology that detects a patient’s slower breathing during sleep and the machine will then adjusts the flow or bolus size accordingly. Continuous-flow mode is considered safer for night use when used with a CPAP machine. Some larger portable oxygen concentrators are designed to operate in both continuous-flow mode and pulse-flow mode.

References: http://en.wikipedia.org and http://hme-business.com

Misdiagnosis of COPD is Common and Dangerous

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There are many stories of patients being misdiagnosed and given treatment for asthma when in fact years later the patient is then diagnosed with COPD.
Pat Crowe was a healthy, active 39 year old but was told he had developed asthma and was given an inhaler. Over the next few years his health deteriorated, he grew dependent upon and overused his inhaler, suffered from side effects and eventually the inhaler wasn’t enough. Being so breathless meant his confidence plummeted, making him almost housebound.
‘I panicked about going outside and crossing busy roads because I was having trouble breathing and couldn’t move quickly.’
During bad spells and prolonged attacks he was also prescribed strong steroid pills, which caused side-effects, including a swollen face and hunger.
‘My wife became my carer, and my family were very scared watching me struggle to breathe,’ he says. ‘I didn’t even want to get out of bed and go down stairs because I was worried about getting back up. My life changed completely.’
It was only then that Pat’s consultant performed a spirometer test which confirmed that he didn’t have asthma after all but suffered from COPD, which explained why he’d found the condition impossible to control.
COPD is incurable and affects 900,000 people in the UK, usually above the age of 35, and an estimated 30,000 people die from it each year. Experts believe there are also more than two million undiagnosed cases.
Specialist advice is crucial when it comes to achieving an accurate diagnosis says Dr Kurukulaaratchy: ‘GPs need better awareness of these conditions. They both rank highly in hospital admissions, but if management is right early on, you can improve quality of life and possibly even life expectancy.’
Nick Hopkinson, honorary chest physician at the Royal Brompton Hospital, London, adds: ‘Asthma patients usually have normal lung function, but when they experience asthma symptoms or an attack their airways go into spasm, becoming narrow and inflamed. Then, after taking medication – usually an inhaler – their lungs return to normal. However, COPD patients have relatively fixed lung disease, so even on a good day they still have symptoms. Most of the damage isn’t reversible and progressively worsens.’
One major consequence of misdiagnosis is that patients could be given the wrong medication.
COPD patients usually start with bronchodilator inhalers to relieve narrowing of the airways and then go through a variety of drugs, starting with shorter-acting medications and moving to longer-acting ones, as the disease worsens, says Dr Kurukulaaratchy.
‘Research has shown steroids can lead to an increased risk of pneumonia (inflammation of lung tissue) in COPD patients, so this is a risk if they are wrongly labelled as having asthma.’
If the condition doesn’t improve, they can end up using a lot of steroids, which have side-effects such as weight gain, mood changes and osteoporosis.
‘If patients are told they have COPD but it’s asthma and they don’t have inhaled steroids, they won’t be able to control the disease – leaving them prone to worsening symptoms and even death from an asthma attack,’ says Dr Hopkinson. ‘We see 1,100 asthma deaths a year in the UK, often because they weren’t on preventer treatments.’
Also oxygen therapy treatment is a major component of COPD treatment which is prescribed by your doctor, so if you are misdiagnosed then you may not be prescribed oxygen as early as you should have been which can affect your health and long-term diagnosis as COPD damage to the lungs is irreversible.
If you have any doubts about your diagnosis then speak to your doctor or get a second opinion, just to be sure as your health is the most important thing.

References: http://www.dailymail.co.uk

O-X-Y-G-E-N

O – Options – Ask your supplier for devices or gadgets to help suit you and your home.

X – eXpectations – Medical advancements and oxygen supply companies have come a long way  but you should have high expectations for your health, talk to your doctor and make sure you use a reputable, caring oxygen supplier.

Y – Your lifestyle – This can still be maintained with a little oxygen help, especially with portable oxygen devices – keeping active is important!

G – Go on Holiday! – There’s no reason why people using oxygen cannot go on holiday, from flights to cruises to mini-breaks abroad by car, just ask your oxygen supplier to help arrange and cater for your oxygen requirements!

E – Enjoy a Long Life! – With improved portable oxygen devices to help you keep mobile and improved medical treatments and drugs, life expectancy has greatly improved and patients live a long, near normal life nowadays.

N – Needs Change – Your disease may improve or worsen or your general fitness may alter and so will your oxygen requirements. Always attend your check-up appointments so that your doctor can alter your oxygen prescription  accordingly.

What Would Happen If Oxygen Just Disappeared?

oxy-imagesOxygen is vitally important to us; not just because we need to breath it but because of how versatile and widely used it is:

•    Everyone would get sunburnt as oxygen makes up the ozone and normally helps to block out UV light.
•    The sky would get darker during the day if there were fewer oxygen molecules to scatter blue light; the sky would appear less blue and more black.
•    All engines that use internal combustion would stop working as oxygen is fundamental for combustion.
•    All pieces of untreated metal would suddenly weld to one another, as usually the oxidation layer on the metal prevents this.
•    Your inner ear would explode as you would lose 21% of the air pressure in an instant, as if you had been suddenly transported to high altitude.
•    Any building made of concrete would crumble as oxygen helps to bind all concrete structures.
•    Water is one third oxygen, without it the Hydrogen becomes a free gas and expands, thereby destroying all living cells and evaporating the oceans.
•    The earth below us would disappear and we would free fall. The earth’s crust is made up of oxygen, about 45% so without it the majority of the earth’s crust would disappear from beneath our feet.

References: http://www.breathing.com