Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Alzheimer’s and dementia are two of the most common neurodegenerative diseases which have begun to rise to prevalence amongst our rise in life expectancy. Currently, there is no known cure for these diseases despite the amount of money poured into research worldwide. However, a new treatment which doctors have been experimenting with as a potential treatment has been hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

One of the risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease or Dementia is said to be hypoxia, or lack of oxygen, to the brain. This means that a person can reduce their risk of developing the disease by keeping a healthy lifestyle and maintaining the strength of their pulmonary systems, but head trauma and stroke can be huge risk factors in developing the disease. If the disease has already begun to take hold, then hyperbaric oxygen therapy has shown promise as an early intervention tool.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for Alzheimer’s involves putting the patients in an environment medically designed to give a person 100% pure oxygen. For context, the air we breathe is typically around 21% oxygen. This has been shown to improve neurological function in both healthy subjects when they are multitasking, improve life quality in those who have suffered brain damage, either by traumatic head injury or stroke, and therefore shows promise as an early intervention for dementia and Alzheimer’s. Hypoxia has a major role in the development in Alzheimer’s and dementia, as seen in many epidemiological studies, wherein a lack of oxygen in the brain leads to a loss of neurons, and the tissue damage which leads to the development of the disease. This is why higher levels of oxygen can help improve neurological function.

One of the benefits to Hyperbaric oxygen therapy over simple oxygen supplementation is that providing a hyperbaric chamber for dementia and changing the environment around the subject has demonstrated more effective elevation of the partial pressure of oxygen in the blood and tissues of the patient. This could assist in reducing or even reversing some the damage in the brain caused by Alzheimer’s or dementia.

There have been experiments performed on people suffering with Alzheimer’s – one in particular being a 58 year old woman who had been in decline for the last five years, treated by Dr. Paul Harch in the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center. After forty sessions of Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which consisted of fifty minutes of 1.15 atmosphere absolute, five days a week for 66 days, the patient then reported that she had better concentration, memory, appetite, an increased mood most days, it was easier to use her computer, her anxiety had resolved itself and she experienced less disorientation. Alongside that, she demonstrated better motor controls and higher energy levels. To summarise, Hyperbaric oxygen therapy not only assisted the lady with her condition but reverse the progression of the disease and healed some of the damage caused by it – at least temporarily.

This, and a few other examples from experiments performed by doctors show that there is real potential in Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and results have suggested that alongside more traditional drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s, it may be possible to be used to treat the disease long-term in the future.

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