patient Information


Asthma is a condition that affects the airways – the small tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs.

When a person with asthma comes into contact with something that irritates their airways (referred to as an asthma trigger), the muscles around the walls of the airways tighten making them narrower and the lining of the airways becomes inflamed and swells. Sometimes a sticky mucus or phlegm builds up which can further narrow the airways making it difficult to breathe.

What are the symptoms of Asthma?

The common symptoms of asthma are :

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness of the chest.  

What causes Asthma?

There are many different causes of Asthma, however certain factors may make a person more likely to develop the condition. These include:

  • Smoking during pregnancy or passive smoking
  • Family history of Asthma and/or other allergies
  • Suffering from bronchiolitis at a young age
  • Premature birth
  • External factors such as pollution
  • Changes in the home or working environment

Asthma can be triggered by a range of non-specific factors such as temperature changes, exercise, pollen, smoke or perfumes. Asthmatics may also suffer from an allergy to something specific such as dust, certain pollen types, animal hair and fur, bacteria and chemicals, which worsen their symptoms.

Asthma Diagnosis and Treatment

How is Asthma diagnosed?

The diagnosis of Asthma often starts with finding out more detailed information about the patient's:  
  • Symptoms
  • Lifestyle (are they a smoker)
  • Home and working environment
  • Family medical history

It is also important to find out whether the patient can identify any triggers which appear to worsen the symptoms. 

In order to determine the severity of the Asthma and to correctly manage the condition it may also be necessary to undertake certain tests which monitor breathing and lung capacity such as a peak flow measurement or spirometry.

What treatment is available?

The most effective way of administering medication for the treatment of Asthma is inhalation down through the airways and into the lungs. The most common treatment for Asthma sufferers is the use of an inhaler either for everyday use (preventer inhalers) or when needed (reliever inhalers).

Another popular method of treatment used by Asthma sufferers is a nebuliser. A nebuliser when combined with an air compressor turns liquid medication into a mist. This can then be inhaled deep into the lungs via a mask or mouthpiece for effective treatment. Nebulisers are often used for administering medication to children or in emergency situations where an increased dose may be required. They are used in the home environment to treat severe cases of Asthma and other respiratory conditions but also for some sufferers who favour this method of treatment over others.


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a term used for conditions including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. COPD leads to long term damage of the airways in the lungs, causing them to become narrower and making it more difficult for air to get in and out.

Each lung is made up of tubes called Bronchi which branch into smaller airways known as Bronchioles. At the end of these smaller airways are tiny air sacs (Alveoli) which, on inhalation, expand and inflate. They work to transfer inhaled oxygen into the blood stream and remove waste gases through exhalation. 


In Emphysema the tissue that surrounds the smaller airways is damaged and air is trapped in the alveoli. These air sacs become overstretched and unable to function correctly causing shortness of breath.  

Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic Bronchitis is inflammation of the airways which deliver air to the lungs. This can lead to an increase in mucus production and consequent narrowing of the bronchi.

COPD Symptoms and Causes

What are the Symptoms of COPD?

Typical COPD symptoms are:

  • Breathlessness
  • A persistent and productive cough
  • Recurring chest infections
  • Wheezing
  • Tightness of the chest.

What causes COPD?

The most common cause of COPD is smoking and sufferers of the disease are therefore encouraged to stop smoking in an effort to reduce further damage. Inherited problems and occupational factors such as exposure to dust and chemicals can also act as causes of the disease.

COPD Diagnosis and Treatment

How is COPD diagnosed?

COPD is diagnosed by assessing a patient's lung function. Spirometry is used in the diagnosis of COPD and measures the maximum volume of air a person is capable of breathing out in one breath.

Primarily spirometry assists in determining the severity of the disease and the results may lead to the patient being referred for further lung function testing or X-ray.  

What treatment is available? 

COPD cannot be cured but there are a variety of treatments available to make the disease more manageable. Available COPD treatment includes pulmonary rehabilitation, bronchodilator medication, nebulisers and, in more advanced cases, Long Term Oxygen Therapy (LTOT). Smoking cessation is also actively encouraged as this will help to improve the symptoms of COPD.

Shortness of breath can make daily activities more difficult for sufferers of COPD, however remaining active is an important part of managing the condition. Pulmonary rehabilitation is carried out by professional respiratory physiotherapists or nurses, promotes exercise and helps sufferers to better manage their symptoms. Whilst it is not possible to reverse lung damage, pulmonary rehabilitation can benefit general fitness and the ability to cope better with periods of breathlessness.

COPD sufferers are also often prescribed bronchodilator medicines, which act to relax the bronchial muscles and open up the airways making it easier to breathe. A nebuliser is a device which transforms liquid medication into a fine mist for the patient to inhale via a mouthpiece or mask. A nebuliser may be recommended for administering bronchodilator drugs as the medication is deposited deep into the lungs where needed.

Long Term Oxygen Therapy (LTOT) is used for patients in the more advanced stages of the disease who suffer with low oxygen levels in the blood. In adults the use of oxygen is usually recommended for at least 15 hours per day and it is common for patients to use oxygen overnight and for several hours during the day. 

The most common modes of LTOT are an oxygen concentrator, a liquid oxygen reservoir or large cylinders (although these are becoming rarer).  For patients that require oxygen when exercising or when away from home there are ambulatory or portable oxygen systems available including portable oxygen concentrators, portable liquid systems and portable cylinders with oxygen conserving devices.


  • What is pulmonary rehabilitation and why is it important?

    Pulmonary rehabilitation is a very important part of learning to live with and manage the symptoms of COPD. The right combination of medication, treatment and exercise, professional support and advice can allow COPD sufferers to manage the disease and carry on with their normal daily lives.

  • I use a nebuliser to take bronchodilator drugs. Am I able to travel abroad with my device?

    Always check the voltage requirements for your device against that of the country you are travelling to. Voltage converters can be purchased from electrical or hardware stores for use when travelling abroad.

  • I suffer from COPD and intend on travelling abroad. Can I travel abroad and still receive oxygen?

    Yes, this is absolutely possible. A portable oxygen concentrator acts in the same way as a standard stationary oxygen concentrator but is smaller and more compact for travelling and ease of portability. The DeVilbiss iGo portable oxygen concentrator has an internal, rechargeable battery for travelling and is FAA approved for use onboard an aircraft.

  • How does an oxygen concentrator work?

    An oxygen concentrator is an electrical device that draws in room air, separates the oxygen from the other gases and delivers the oxygen at high concentrations to the patient. Room air is drawn in via a small electric compressor through a series of filters. The compressed air passes through two molecular sieve beds, which removes the nitrogen. Waste gas is harmlessly returned to the air and the process repeated. The oxygen is then delivered to the patient via a nasal canula or face mask. An uninterrupted supply of oxygen is available at the touch of a button and can be used 24 hours a day.

  • What is the best way to transport an oxygen concentrator in the car?

    It is not recommended to put the DeVilbiss 525 oxygen concentrator in the boot of a car as this involves tipping the unit. The best place is on a back seat secured with the seat belt or wedged between the front and back seats.

  • Can I also use a portable oxygen concentrator in the home?

    Yes, portable oxygen concentrators can also be operated from a mains power source.

  • What are the advantages of home filling stations?

    People who require oxygen throughout the day and use a stationary, continuous flow system such as an oxygen concentrator may find that their daily life becomes somewhat restricted. With a home filling station such as the DeVilbiss iFill, oxygen cylinders can be filled at home and used whenever and wherever they are needed.

  • What are the advantages of an oxygen conserving device?

    An oxygen conserving device only delivers oxygen when it is needed, ie. on inhalation, whereas continuous flow systems deliver oxygen all the time. Oxygen cylinders fitted with a conserving device can be used for a longer period of time before they need re-filling.      

  • Am I receiving the right amount of oxygen by using an oxygen conserving device?

    Yes. Systems such as the DeVilbiss PulseDose conserving device deliver a precise burst of oxygen at a relatively high flow rate at the leading edge of each inhalation. This assures that the oxygen delivered flows deep into the lungs for maximum benefit. PulseDose requires less oxygen to deliver the same therapeutic benefit as continuous flow oxygen.

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is a condition that affects sufferers during sleep. When a person with sleep apnoea falls asleep the muscles in the neck and throat relax causing the airway to become narrower. The brain is able to sense that the blockage is causing a lack of oxygen and the patient wakes briefly, often gasping loudly, before returning to sleep. This can happen hundreds of times a night and causes the sufferer to have a very interrupted sleep pattern.

It is common that a person with Sleep Apnoea is unaware that he or she has woken in the night, because the arousal is so brief. Quite often it can be a partner who alerts the sufferer to the problem.

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Symptoms and Causes

What are the Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA)?

The main symptom of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea is severe daytime sleepiness, for example falling asleep whilst reading, watching TV, whilst driving and in more severe cases whilst talking. Other symptoms include very loud snoring and gasping for breath, pauses in a person’s breathing during sleep, irritability, morning headaches, night sweats, impotence and frequently passing urine overnight.

What are the causes of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA)?

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea is more prevalent in males but can affect both men and women alike. Most sufferers are between the ages of 30 and 60 and it is often associated with being overweight and with having a neck size of 17" and above.

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis of Sleep Apnoea

A visit to see the doctor is the first step in the diagnosis of Sleep Apnoea. This can often be prompted by loud snoring, disrupted sleep or excessive daytime sleepiness. In addition to asking questions about general health and taking measurements such as height and weight, the doctor may also ask the patient to fill out a form called the Epworth Sleepiness Scale to determine how sleepy the person is during the day. 

If it is deemed necessary after the initial consultation the patient may then be referred to a sleep specialist to confirm the diagnosis and assess the severity of the condition.

The most common methods of diagnosing OSA are pulse oximetry and a multi channel sleep study (PSG) using an ambulatory sleep diagnostics system.

Once diagnosis has been confirmed, the patient will then be referred for treatment.

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Treatment

Once diagnosed with OSA the most common and widely accepted treatment is Continuous Positive Airways Pressure therapy or CPAP for short. A CPAP device is a motor that generates pressurised air, which is blown down the nose and throat via a mask worn by the patient. CPAP therapy is designed to stop the air passage from narrowing or collapsing during sleep by acting as a splint. DeVilbiss Healthcare offer a range of CPAP and sleep therapy devices. For further detailed product information please view the sleep therapy section of our website.

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea FAQs

  • I think I may have Sleep Apnoea, what should I do?

    If you are concerned that you may have Obstructive Sleep Apnoea it is important to go and see your doctor who will refer you for further investigation and treatment. 

  • Why is it important not to leave OSA untreated?

    Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnoea increases the risk of a person suffering high blood pressure, a heart attack or a stroke.  It is also a factor associated with an increased risk of accidents at work and on the road due to excessive daytime sleepiness. 

  • Can I do anything myself to reduce the effects of Sleep Apnoea?

    Yes, sufferers who are overweight may be advised by their doctor to lose weight and limit alcohol before sleeping as this can worsen the symptoms of OSA.  

  • How is Obstructive Sleep Apnoea diagnosed?

    OSA is diagnosed by overnight monitoring of oxygen levels and pulse rate at home using a Pulse Oximeter or by full polysomnographic screening in the sleep lab. Results are then analysed by your sleep specialist to determine the correct level of treatment.  

  • Can I drive if I have Obstructive Sleep Apnoea?

    OSA is considered as a medical condition and in the UK sufferers are obliged to inform the Driving Standards Agency (DVLA) of this. Generally once effective treatment is underway sufferers of OSA are able to drive as normal. For further information please visit the DVLA website at

  • I am having trouble with adjusting to my CPAP treatment. Why is this and what can I do about it?

    Some adjust to CPAP therapy quickly, whereas others require longer. If you are not adjusting to your CPAP therapy it is important to return to your healthcare professional to review the reasons for this. It may be that your mask or CPAP pressure settings require adjustment or that you may benefit from trialling a different type of mask. Exhale pressure relief is also an option which some sufferers find increases adherence. By reducing the pressure on exhalation this acts to ease the transition between inhalation and exhalation and for increased patient comfort. 

  • What is the difference between a full face CPAP mask and a nasal CPAP mask?

    The suitability of any mask is dependent on the individual. Whilst some sufferers of OSA prefer a full face mask, others adjust more easily to a nasal mask which only covers the nose. For more information on nasal and full face CPAP masks supplied by DeVilbiss Healthcare please click to view. 

  • How often should my CPAP mask be changed?

    As a guide, CPAP masks should be changed between every 6-12 months. Please refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations. 

  • How is my CPAP pressure determined and can I alter this myself?

    Your CPAP pressure will be set by your sleep specialist. If you feel that you are not adjusting to your therapy a return visit may be required to ensure that the unit is set correctly to meet your needs. 

  • I am a CPAP user and experience a sore, dry throat and nose. Is there anything I can do?

    Yes, the most common solution is a heated humidifier. This is a device that fits to the CPAP machine to heat and moisten the airflow making therapy more comfortable. The SleepCube range of CPAP’s has an integrated heated humidifier available as an accessory. 

  • Does having obstructive sleep apnoea prevent me from travelling?

    OSA should not prevent you from travelling. It is advisable to check whether your CPAP device has an automatic switch mode power supply before travelling and ensure that you have the correct power lead or adapter. If travelling by boat or motor home it is also advisable to check that your device is compatible for use with a 12V power supply. All devices in the SleepCube range have an automatic switch mode power supply, are 12V DC compatible and adjust to altitudes of 2,600m. Please visit the SleepCube page of our website to view the DeVilbiss range of devices.   

  • My doctor has advised that I need to have supplemental oxygen at night whilst receiving my CPAP therapy, is this possible?

    The SleepCube devices allow supplemental oxygen to be added with the optional oxygen adapter attached between the unit and tubing (7353D-601) or if the mask is equipped with an oxygen port directly to the mask. It is advisable to check with the manufacturer of your CPAP equipment if unsure.

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