Oxygen Therapy for Patients with Macular Degeneration
Cardiovascular disease such as a heart attack or stroke is the end result of low arterial oxygen saturation in the tissue. The emergency treatment includes the use of IV morphine for vessel dilation and the use of oxygen through a nasal cannula. The impaired blood flow causes less oxygen to be delivered to the body’s tissue and to the brain. Any other co-existing diseases of the cardiovascular system such as high blood pressure or diabetes can result in even less oxygen delivered to the body’s organs.
Symptoms of less oxygen profusion include difficulty with cerebral thinking shown by brain fog, confusion, and memory loss. Less oxygen can also cause a heart arrhythmia. There is an age related decline in our body’s ability to absorb oxygen. Age is also a consistent risk factor for the worsening of macular degeneration.
It is important in an ARMD patient to test their oxygen saturation while sleeping to accurately determine the resting oxygen saturation level. This is similar to a grade 1 anesthesia level where a patient’s breathing is slower and more shallow. The test is performed by using a pulse oximeter clamp on their forefinger, similar to what is used during surgery in a hospital. There will be a lower pulse level during sleep as compared to when the patient is fully awake. When a severe depletion of oxygen occurs within the body, this is known clinically, as hypoxia. Heart attacks and strokes are striking examples of tissue cell death caused by severe hypoxia. Hypoxic cells in the eye as well as the rest of the body stimulate new vessel capillary formation, in an attempt to bring more oxygen to the body’s tissues. With ARMD this new vessel formation can lead to a retinal hemorrhage, known as the “wet” stage of ARMD.
It is conceivable that correcting the hypoxia may delay or prevent the advancement of wet macular degeneration. Cellular hypoxia shifts the body’s pH to an acid level which is a disease state. Metabolic acidosis allows the ability for systemic disease to develop. It is easy to see how oxygen therapy can keep a patient healthy when the patient’s oxygen saturation has been determined to be too low.
Medicare will provide an oxygen concentrator to the patient when the level of oxygen saturation is at a low enough level to qualify the patient. An oxygen concentrator is an electrically run machine that provides pure oxygen by concentrating it from room air. It is delivered through a nasal cannula that comes in several different forms. The concentrator takes the place of a large oxygen cylinder or oxygen canister which continually need to be changed and refilled.