Pulse oximeters measure the pulse rate of an individual, which is usually marked by a small heart. This is the first number that appears while using a pulse oximeter. It also measures the proportion of oxygenated hemoglobin in the blood within pulsating vessels. This determines the level of oxygen in the blood – the very reason why a pulse oximeter can be a very useful tool to someone who suffers from COPD. It is important for the patient to understand and know how to read the results of this measurement properly. Pulse oximeters can also detect when you might be experiencing a problem. Knowing your oxygen saturation can tell you when you need to use your oxygen enhancement tools.
However, the unit is often not accurate enough for medical diagnostics, and it is not always as precise as the equipment a healthcare professional would use. Keep in mind that certain
Factors that can interfere with a pulse oximeter reading:
- Poor circulation to the fingertips
- Cold hands after being outdoors
- Wearing blue, black, or green nail polish
- Certain medical conditions, such as heart disease
- Exposure to strong external light
In order to get a correct oxygen saturation reading, the device must sense every beat of a fairly strong pulse – if your pulse is irregular, weak, or not the pulse oximeter cannot sense it, the results may show an oxygen reading, but it is not necessarily clear-cut.
While pulse oximetry monitoring can be helpful for COPD patients, it is not a substitute for medical care and management. Having your regular check-ups to establish the oxygen saturation levels that your body needs is imperative.