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It goes without saying, but when your doctor prescribes an inhaler or oxygen for you, there’s usually a good reason for it.

Studies show that those who adhere to their prescribed therapies not only feel better in the short-term, but actually fair better overall and end up living longer than those who aren’t as religious about their treatment.

For those prescribed inhalers, sometimes the effects are immediate, and sometimes it takes a while to really notice a difference. This happens a lot if you’ve been prescribed a daily inhaler. But just because you can’t see an immediate difference, doesn’t mean it’s not making an impact on your health.

For those who have been prescribed oxygen, maybe you feel like people will see you as weak or handicapped if you show up with your oxygen tank. Maybe the confirmation that you need oxygen therapy is making you feel worried, uncertain, depressed, grief, frustration and/or fear. Or maybe you’re just turned off by the inconvenience of having to be tethered to an oxygen tank and aren’t sure how to fit it into your lifestyle and plans. For some people, the pressure of having to come to terms with living with a chronic and progressive condition can make them want to avoid their oxygen altogether. 

Some individuals rationalize they do not want to use supplemental oxygen because they are afraid they will become “addicted” to it. Ironically, by refusing to comply with the prescribed therapy, these individuals may bring about the events they are trying to avoid!

But did you know that by not using your oxygen as your doctor has prescribed you can be putting your other organs at serious risk? Inadequate oxygen levels can lead to an increase in the number of circulating red blood cells in the body. It is the red blood cells, specifically the hemoglobin, that transport oxygen throughout the body. This proliferation (large number of red blood cells, known as erythrocytosis), is the body’s way of attempting to deliver more oxygen to the tissues and cells. In some individuals, the increased volume of circulating red blood cells can cause blood clots, headaches, and elevated blood pressure.

Hypoxemia also can adversely affect brain function and physical capabilities. Attention span and the ability to concentrate may be diminished, along with memory and mood. The ability to utilize abstract reasoning and problem-solving skills can be impaired. Speech may become affected, and simple sensory and motor skills may become problematic. Being able to perform more complex tasks that require gross and fine motor skills can be adversely affected; for instance, driving a car, performing specific tasks of a job, and operating equipment. Poor tolerance to exercise, muscle weakness, and impaired coordination also can be seen. Severe hypoxemia is life-threatening, and can ultimately lead to delirium, coma, and death.

The bottom line here is that avoiding your prescriptions and not using them like you should *will* impact you, if not right away, then in the long term. Following your doctor’s instructions will help you live longer!