What is oxygen therapy?

Oxygen therapy is a prescription treatment in which oxygen is administered in high concentrations to prevent or treat oxygen deficiency (hypoxia) in the blood, cells and tissues of the body. Although its main indication is for chronic respiratory failure.

In recent years, the use of this therapy has also extended to cosmetic surgery centers as an alternative to botox and mesotherapy to treat the skin as it is painless. Its main use is for the treatment of wrinkled, dry or tired skin, among others.

Medical use

The therapeutic use of oxygen therapy is a key part of respiratory therapy. In these circumstances, oxygen is administered under a doctor’s prescription. There are two types of oxygen therapy that are most commonly used:

Normobaric oxygen therapy

In this option the doctor incorporates the oxygen at different concentrations, usually between 21 and one hundred percent. The administration can be done through nasal cannulas or masks, among other options.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy

In this type of oxygen therapy the oxygen is always administered at one hundred percent concentration. To incorporate it, use a helmet or a mask. The administration is done while the patient is inside a hyperbaric chamber.

The purpose of this therapy is to increase the supply of oxygen to tissues using hemoglobin as a means of transport. When the amount of oxygen entering the body is high, it causes a certain pressure in the alveolus that causes the hemoglobin to become saturated. In this way, the pressure of the alveolar oxygen increases, the work of breathing and heart rate decreases, and the pressure of the oxygen is constantly maintained.


This therapy is prescribed in situations where patients have a decrease in the amount of oxygen in the blood as a result of problems such as anemia or acute or chronic respiratory failure. This can lead to hypoxia.


The main problems that this type of therapy can have derive from an inadequate concentration of oxygen, or an excess of time that the patient is submitted to the treatment. This can be counterproductive in some pathologies, such as those related to chronic respiratory problems. In these cases, not measuring doses properly can cause the increased concentration of gas in the blood to inhibit the stimulation of sensitive receptors and cause respiratory arrest.


Main routes by which treatment is administered

In patients with spontaneous breathing, therapy can be applied in the following ways

  • Nasal cannulas.
  • Simple mask.
  • Venturi mask: It administers an exact concentration of oxygen to the patient.
  • The patient may have a feeling of being confined during administration (does not allow eating or talking), as well as being hot or showing slight skin irritation.
  • Breathing mask.
  • Low flow system: Indicated for people who have to undergo minimal contact with oxygen. These devices do not cover either the mouth or the nostrils and are placed on the patient’s head as if the telephone handset were located. When it is in place, the oxygen is simultaneously diffused over the mouth and nose in such a way as to create a cloud of oxygen for the person to inhale during inspiration.
  • High flow system.
  • Hyperbaric chamber.
  • Oxygenation cradle for newborns.

In addition to these types, patients with a lack of spontaneous breathing can be put on a mechanical ventilator or a manual resuscitation bag.

Use in aesthetics

In recent years the use of oxygen therapy as an alternative treatment to mesotherapy and botulinum toxin (botox) is increasing. The reasons are that this option is less invasive for the treatment of the skin since it does not require the use of surgery and is painless.

The main applications attributed to this treatment is the improvement of skin tone combined with alternative treatments. The main aesthetic treatments in which it is used are dry skin, wrinkles, oily or aged skin. The reason that the therapy is adapted to different skin types is that oxygen provides great hydration to the skin and increases collagen production.