Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Better Health?

hyperbaric oxygen therapy
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Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a medical treatment that involves breathing in pure oxygen while inside a sealed chamber whose air pressure is significantly higher than normal atmospheric pressure. This increased air pressure helps supply your lungs with a greater amount of oxygen and, in turn, deliver more oxygen to tissues throughout your body.

Because oxygen is essential for healthy functioning of your tissues, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is typically used to promote healing from various injuries and other health problems marked by decreased oxygen supply.

One way that hyperbaric oxygen therapy helps promote healing is by stimulating the release of substances called growth factors, which regulate a variety of cellular processes and aid in cellular growth.

Uses for Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used as a conventional treatment for the following health issues:

  • arterial gas embolism
  • brain abscess
  • carbon monoxide poisoning
  • decompression sickness
  • delayed radiation injury
  • gangrene
  • osteomyelitis

In addition, some alternative medicine proponents claim that hyperbaric oxygen therapy can aid in the treatment of these and other conditions:

Such proponents suggest that hyperbaric oxygen therapy may treat the above health problems (as well as fight cancer) by destroying certain microorganisms thought to contribute to disease development. However, scientific support for these claims is limited.

What's Involved in Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

In most cases, the chambers used in hyperbaric oxygen therapy are pressurized at 1.5 to 3 times normal atmospheric pressure. Treatment is typically provided at a hospital or outpatient center.

While treatment for chronic conditions is usually repeated over days or weeks, some conditions (such as decompression sickness) may be treated with a one-time, longer-lasting session of hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Benefits of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Studies show that hyperbaric oxygen therapy appears to be effective in the treatment of a variety of injuries and infections, such as decompression sickness, anemia due to severe blood loss, and delayed radiation injury of the soft tissue or bones. While research on the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in the treatment of other conditions is limited, there's some evidence that the therapy may help with certain health problems, including:

1)  Diabetes-Related Complications

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be beneficial as a short-term treatment for diabetes-related foot ulcers, according to a report published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2012. However, in their analysis of eight clinical trials on the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in treatment of diabetic foot ulcers, the report's authors note that the reviewed trials had various flaws in their design and/or reporting.

2)  Cancer

In a research review published in Targeted Oncology in 2012, scientists found some evidence that hyperbaric oxygen therapy may help inhibit tumor growth in certain incidences of cancer.

However, more research is needed to determine whether hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be effective as a cancer treatment.

More Research on Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Although hyperbaric oxygen therapy is sometimes touted as an alternative treatment for conditions like multiple sclerosis and stroke, reports published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in recent years found that scientific support for such claims is currently lacking.


Hyperbaric oxygen therapy may trigger a number of minor side effects (including ear popping, fatigue, headache, lightheadedness, and mild discomfort).

In some cases, people undergoing hyperbaric oxygen therapy experience more serious side effects, such as ear injuries, lung damage, seizures, and temporary nearsightedness. What's more, hyperbaric oxygen therapy may aggravate symptoms in people with severe congestive heart failure.

It should also be noted that using hyperbaric oxygen therapy as a substitute for standard care in the treatment of certain chronic conditions and major illnesses (such as cancer) may have serious consequences. If you're considering trying it, it is essential that you consult your physician first.


American Cancer Society. "Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy." April 14, 2011.

Bennett M, Heard R. "Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for multiple sclerosis." Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;(1):CD003057.

Bennett MH, Wasiak J, Schnabel A, Kranke P, French C. "Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for acute ischaemic stroke." Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Jul 20;(3):CD004954.

Kranke P, Bennett MH, Martyn-St James M, Schnabel A, Debus SE. "Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for chronic wounds." Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Apr 18;4:CD004123. 

Moen I, Stuhr LE. "Hyperbaric oxygen therapy and cancer--a review." Target Oncol. 2012 Dec;7(4):233-42.

Yildiz S, Uzun G, Kiralp MZ. "Hyperbaric oxygen therapy in chronic pain management." Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2006 Apr;10(2):95-100.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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