Our body is like an automated machine. It needs oxygen to function just like a machine needs a fuel to operate.
Unlike machines, the human body has the capacity to heal a condition on its own. However, this depends upon the supply of oxygen to cells and tissues, the more the better.
A disease, an injury, or aging besets the process of supply of oxygen. This causes undesirable changes and affects certain parts of the body. The key is to supply oxygen adequately to the affected parts of the body for a quick recovery. This approach for treating various conditions is termed as ‘HBOT’ or ‘Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy’ in medicine.
Advances in modern medicine over the last few years have played a significant role in popularizing HBOT as the byword for a treatment with numerous benefits.
HBOT is ideal for those patients who do not get the desired results after receiving other treatments. It comes across as a safe treatment, which is both painless and effective.
As a therapy, HBOT includes a wide range of conditions in its scope, ranging from gas embolism to crush injuries. The significance of HBOT for the treatment of different conditions is discussed below in more detail.
How Does HBOT work?
Let us understand how HBOT works, before we proceed to understand its significance in relation to the treatment for various conditions.
If we begin from scratch, it starts at the basic level i.e. the cellular level. All the disorders or diseases are caused by problems or undesirable changes to cells. An understanding of how brain cells and the other cells of the human body work would make it easier to understand how HBOT works.
Our brain lives as long as the brain cells receive a sufficient supply of oxygen which is necessary for its functioning. A slight interruption or reduction in the supply of oxygen than what is required can have a devastating effect on the brain cells.
Brain cells need oxygen and nutrients to function effectively just like other cells in the body of an individual. An interruption or a reduction in the supply of oxygen either interrupts or reduces the supply of nutrients to the brain cells. The brain cells cease to function thereafter and die away one after the other, which, in turn, leads to the death of brain eventually. The same applies to other cells in the body. Thus, we can conclude that oxygen is indispensable for survival and healing. This idea is the cornerstone of HBOT.
HBOT stands for ‘Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy‘. ‘Hyperbaric’ means ‘high pressure’. Thus, HBOT concerns itself with the therapy which involves a total inhalation of oxygen inside a body chamber with a high atmospheric pressure (up to three times the normal atmospheric pressure).
It is observed that an increase in the pressure of oxygen brings a proportional increase in the saturation of Red Blood Cells (RBCs). As a result, there is an approximate increase in the quantity of oxygen dissolved in RBCs. The quantity of oxygen thus increased is almost 15 times the actual quantity of oxygen, which is found in the straw-coloured liquid component of blood, called blood plasma. Oxygen is then transported to the affected parts of the body by fluids like lymph, cerebrospinal fluid and intestinal fluid. This stimulates the processes pertaining to growth, or repair.
Below given are the benefits of HBOT in the treatment of different health conditions:
HBOT enhances blood circulation, helps produce growth factors, reduces swelling significantly and promotes the immunity of the body to fight against bacteria. HBOT increases the rate of metabolism, improves blood circulation and aids in the production of beneficial proteins. Added to this, it also helps in treating certain serious conditions like diabetes, stroke and dementia.
Aging reduces the production of hormones and antioxidants like ascorbic acid or thiols, which play a pivotal role in controlling damage to cells. This, coupled with the diminished capacity of the lungs in absorption of oxygen, increases the risks related to chronic conditions such as osteoporosis, arthritis, dementia etc. Furthermore, HBOT enhances mental alertness and improves bone health.
2. Autism And Childhood Epilepsy
Nowadays HBOT is percieved as an effective treatment for Autism. Although it is yet to be approved by the FDA in the treatment for autism, it has gained in popularity among the parents of autistic children in USA over recent years.
Epilepsy arrests the development of personality and intelligence of children. It is an impairment which poses the danger to become a disability in a child, if not treated in time.
HBOT can prevent mental disability among children by keeping epileptic attacks under control. This, in turn, prevents the possibilities of abnormal personality and intelligence impairment among children.
The effects of HBOT in cases of epilepsy depends upon its cause. In other words, knowing the actual cause for epilepsy in a child, makes it easier to predict its outcome on the child. It is believed to be more benifical in cases of epilepsy related to birth delivery. The duration of the treatment may vary from two to three years with two to three courses of treatment for fifteen to twenty days per year.
3. Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy can be defined as a medical condition which is caused by a damage to the brain. It has a lifelong effect on a patient and affects the coordination of muscles and the movement of their body.
Cerebral Palsy decelerates the physical development of an individual’s body with respect to either hypertonia or hypotonia. HBOT helps relieve these complications with an elevated supply of oxygen in the blood plasma. The benefits of the treatment include an increased alertness, a marked improvement in concentration and a high level of proficiency to communicate either verbally or non-verbally.
4. Complications Related To Diabetes Mellitus
A popular saying in English says, “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.” This is correct, especially if the case in hand is related to diabetes, the mother of all diseases.
Diabetes causes a severe damage to peripheral nerve fibres and affects peripheral circulation by reducing it drastically, among other things. This prevents the healing of wounds and makes the feet prone to ulcers, which in the worst-case scenario may require an amputation of the feet. HBOT helps reverse the damage, thereby preventing the likelihood of an amputation of the feet.
RSD is an acronym for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. It relates to a medical condition which is characterized by continuous pain owing to the malfunctioning of the nervous system and the immune system. As a result, the nerves send wrong signals of pain to the brain.
There are a number of symptoms of RSD such as a burning pain, an increase in skin sensitivity, abnormal growth patterns of nail and hair, stiff and swollen joints and a change in the temperature, colour, or texture of the skin.
HBOT relieves the aforementioned symptoms by ensuring a proper supply of oxygen to the cells of the affected regions.
It is important to remember that the FDA approves HBOT only for the fourteen “accepted” indications in the United States of America. The conditions other than those that are approved by the FDA, are termed as “off-label” uses pertaining to HBOT. It is, therefore, necessary to consult a health care professional before making the final decision to undergo the therapy.