Multiple Sclerosis and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Multiple sclerosis is the most common demyelinating disease of the central nervous system. It affects approximately half a million people in the United States today and about 2.5 million worldwide. Other physical manifestations noted are axon destruction, inflammation of the meninges (membranes that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord), peripheral nerve damage, changes in the retina, blood vessel changes outside areas of plaque formation, and rather curious pinpoint-sized red dots on the skin called skin petechiae, caused by the leakage from capillaries below the skin.
The lining of the bloods vessels where capillaries rejoin the veins is the weakest contact in the vascular system. Blood vessel permeability increases with increased capillary pressure, allowing migration of fluid (extravasation) and white blood cells (diapedesis) across the lining of the blood vessels (endothelium) into the surrounding tissues. These physical occurrences happen in response to inflammation and exposure to toxic substances. Endothelial cell receptors respond to inflammatory stimuli by increasing postcapillary venule permeability—inflammation makes the veins “leaky.” Some medical researchers believe this vascular weakness may be the cause of multiple sclerosis.
Over the past twenty years, extensive international medical research has established hyperbaric oxygen therapy as part of an effective multiple sclerosis treatment program. In some European countries, it is not only the primary treatment, but also covered by insurance. For the past 30 years, an England charity has provided more than 1.5 million HBO treatments for MS in 100 MS dedicated centers.
In the United States, HBOT has a controversial history. Many reports have “proven” over and over again it is not effective. Today, it is not considered mainstream treatment, not covered by insurance, and often difficult to access. However, the discrepancy between how the U.S. perceives HBOT in the treatment of multiple sclerosis and how widely it is used in other countries is worth closer examination.
Research indicates the effectiveness of hyperbaric oxygen treatment depends on the total number of treatments, duration and pressure administered, the type of chambers, patients and type of MS treated, how the results are evaluated, and the use of booster/follow-up treatments. Controlled studies following patients who continue with HBOT show that initial improvements of MS can be maintained by regular treatment.
HBOT is the only known treatment that alters the course of the Multiple Sclerosis.