As many as 14 out of every 100 adults, or an estimated 34 million in the US, are currently smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a result, around 16 million people are living with a smoking-related illness. Smoking has the power to exacerbate the severity of nearly every major illness, and is the cause of numerous diseases.
At California Lung Associates in Los Angeles, California, our experienced providers take seriously the effects of living with smoking-related illness, and the importance of closely monitoring your blood oxygen levels. Keeping you safe and healthy is our priority, and part of how we do that is by testing your blood oxygen levels.
Why do I need to know my blood oxygen levels?
Your blood oxygen saturation refers to the amount of oxygen in your blood. Oxygen is carried through your blood on red blood cells, and delivered to all parts of your body, from the top layer of your scalp to the soles of your feet. Oxygenated blood also carries your body’s nutrients to each organ and bodily system.
Unless you’re living with a respiratory condition, you probably don’t need to know your blood oxygen levels. However, for the millions of people in the US who are living with COPD, a small cluster of chronic respiratory conditions, knowing your blood oxygen saturation is important to managing your condition.
COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, is caused primarily by years of smoking. COPD has two main types: Emphysema and Bronchitis. Emphysema by itself affects around 3.5 million people in the US, but most people with COPD experience both emphysema and bronchitis. Bronchitis, though, is the more common of the two types of COPD, affecting nearly 9 million people.
How do I figure out my blood oxygen levels?
There isn’t a way to know your blood oxygen level without a test. There are two types of tests for blood oxygen saturation: an arterial blood gas test, and pulse oximetry.
Arterial blood gas, or ABG, tests are an invasive procedure that involves drawing blood directly from the artery. The reason for the invasive procedure is to retrieve oxygenated blood. Blood is still drawn from the arm, but it’s imperative to reach your artery, which is deeper below the skin than a vein.
Pulse oximetry, sometimes called ‘pulse ox’, is another way to measure the oxygen saturation in your blood. A small monitor is clipped to the finger or earlobe, reading your blood oxygen levels within a 2% window of accuracy. Your blood oxygen could be as much as 2% higher or lower than what the pulse ox detects, but it is a reliable way for many providers to have a snapshot of your health.
What do normal levels look like?
Your blood oxygen levels can fluctuate, but normal blood oxygen saturation stays around 80 to 100 millimeters of mercury, or mm Hg, or 95% to 100% on a pulse ox. People living with COPD, however, have different standards. It is not unusual for the saturation of an individual living with COPD to linger between 88% and 92%.
Though it’s not possible to have too much oxygen in your blood, blood oxygen levels that dip below the healthy range cause noticeable symptoms. Low blood oxygen levels are referred to as COPD Hypoxia. Hypoxia can cause you to cough and wheeze, but other symptoms of low blood oxygen include:
- Chest pain
- Rapid heart beat
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, get in touch with your provider at California Lung Associates.
Lately, I’ve been short of breath.
COPD disorders worsen over time, and the key to successful treatment is quitting smoking, healthy diet and exercise, and staying consistent with prescribed therapies. While there is no cure for COPD, we’re ready to help you keep an eye on your oxygen levels, and protect your longevity. Call us today at 213-441-0156, or book an appointment with us online.