I have been attending the MS clinic in Aylesbury for hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). An NHS approved treatment where you breathe 100% pure oxygen under an increased barometric pressure to improve oxygen saturation. In the oxygen chamber, once you are hitting the max, the air pressure is around 33 feet below sea level. In general, the air we breathe normally contains 21% oxygen and the pressure level around you is dependent how far above sea level your location is. So HBOT provides a dramatic difference.
What are the benefits?
By increasing the pressure around you, oxygen is more effectively carried into the cells of your body. The benefits can include:
- Reduced levels of fatigue
- Increased bladder control
- Reduced tremors and muscle spasms
- Reduced recovery time for wounds and injuries
For MS patients in particular:
Breathing oxygen under pressure causes the dilated and leaky blood vessels around inflamed MS lesions to constrict back to normal size, and blood vessels draining the area to open up. At the same time more oxygen and stem cells are delivered in the blood stream, increasing the amount available to help the body with repairs.
Who can it help?
There have been more than 2 million hyperbaric oxygen therapy sessions in the UK over the last 25 years. It can help patients with Multiple Sclerosis, other patients with disorders of the nervous system such as Lyme disease, athletes looking to half their injury recovery time and patients with wounds that are slow to heal. Oxygen therapy is also increasingly being used for patients recovering from strokes and head or spinal cord injury.
How is it helping me?
With Lyme disease oxygen therapy is not a cure. It is more of a helping hand. Lyme bacteria is not keen on highly oxygenated environments so by increasing the level of oxygen in my body I am creating a hostile environment for the bad guys. So far I have been waking up more tired and with sore lymph nodes -indicating that my body is trying to remove toxins. So whilst I am yet to feel any better I do know that the therapy is having an effect.
I have Lyme disease should I give it a go?
As with most treatments, medications and supplements, one thing won’t necessarily work for everyone. Whilst it can be helpful for Lyme patients it is important to note that it’s possible you have co-infections and treatment of any kind is likely to stir up some of the bad guys. One co-infection in particular to watch out for is Babesia. It is said that this bacteria unlike Lyme, thrive in an oxygenated environment. I am unsure as to whether I have this as the symptoms for Lyme and its co-infections often crossover and without a tick borne disease specialist at hand, or the money for testing, I have kind of been winging it.
On my second week of treatment I noticed red spots appearing on my chest –petechia. This can be indicative of Babesia, although I don’t feel much worse than before, I will be talking to my GP about it and can add it to my never ending list of issues.
What do you ‘do’?
The MS Clinic in Aylesbury suggests a standard programme of five afternoons a week for three weeks at which point, the oxygen in your system should be at maximum saturation. After the third week patients are welcome to visit the clinic as and when they feel a ‘top-up’ is needed.
I have been attending the 2pm sessions so I arrive at about 1.45pm, pop my handbag in the locker and head into the chamber with a book.
The chamber holds up to 5 people. Once the door is closed the volunteer operators start to compress the air. We like to do this slowly as the change in pressure can affect your ears and I have found it to be very painful. 2 x Sudafed about an hour beforehand has helped. It is similar to what you experience upon an aeroplane takeoff, but far more intense. Once the chamber is at the correct pressure, our hour begins. We place our oxygen masks on which can be quite uncomfortable but it gets the job done!
Once the hour is up the pressure is returned to normal, the chamber door can be opened and we go about the rest of our day.
How much does it cost?
If you have a diagnosis of MS then treatments at the clinic are a donation of your choice and possibly an annual membership fee. If you have another illness or injury then use of the oxygen chamber at the Aylesbury clinic is £25 per session or you can buy five sessions for £100. This will vary at each clinic.