Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an incurable disease of the central nervous system. “Sclerosis” refers to scarring of the white matter of the brain and spinal cord. MS usually strikes young adults and in time can render a person unable to write, speak, and walk. Some 400,000 Americans live with MS, and 200 more are diagnosed every week. About 80% of people with MS experience cycles of remission and relapse.
In multiple sclerosis the body’s own immune system attacks the lines of communication between nerve cells. But scientists don’t know the root cause of this mechanism. Over the past two decades, extensive international medical research has demonstrated that hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) can play an extremely important role in the treatment of MS. In many European countries, HBOT is now considered an integral part of the MS treatment program – in England alone, over 10,000 MS patients are currently receiving hyperbaric oxygen treatment.
Many MS people report improvements in their overall symptoms and their functional ability. Patients have reported improvements with their ataxia, numbness in their fingers and hands, balance, visual fields, concentration, pain, weakness, and dizziness.
The medical community has been rather slow to accept HBOT as an alternative therapy for multiple sclerosis (MS). However, there is scientific evidence to suggest that oxygen treatment does have beneficial effects for MS sufferers, and increasingly doctors worldwide are recommending it as part of their patients’ care plans.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatments should be initiated as soon as the condition is diagnosed, and before irreversible lesions have become established. This does not mean that patients whose diagnosis was determined more than five years previously will not benefit.
Why is HBOT so effective for MS?
HBOT consists of administering pure oxygen under pressure. There is oxygen in every breath we take, but only 21% of it. In a hyperbaric chamber, you breathe in 100% oxygen at up to 2 times the normal atmospheric pressure.
The heightened pressure conditions allow the extra oxygen to dissolve in the blood plasma, enabling all areas of the body to become flooded with it, including those where circulation is poor or blocked.
Oxygen is essential to all body tissues, particularly injured ones that require oxygen to heal. Extra oxygenation through HBOT is proven to accelerate the healing process and reduce inflammation. Inflammation in the central nervous system is a signature characteristic of MS, which is one of the reasons why HBOT can retard the progression of the illness. HBOT is also known to boost energy, promote faster recovery from fatigue, reduce pain, and improve concentration and mental clarity, thus alleviating many of the symptoms of MS.
“When I was 42 years old, numbness in my fingers and a previous optic neuritis episode were diagnosed as relapsing/remitting Multiple Sclerosis. A number of different drugs, including Copaxone and Avonex injections and I.V. Solumedrol were prescribed for me.
Though several I.V. infusions of 1,000 mg daily of Solumedrol stopped the effects of severe relapses or exacerbations, the side effects and dangers of that kind of therapy made it inadvisable for every exacerbation. The injections of Avonex or Copaxone didn’t seem, to me, effective at all in reducing the number of or correcting the exacerbations, and they produced very unpleasant side effects.
Eliminating wheat (gluten) form my diet 8 years ago dramatically reduced the number of exacerbations. However, when I did “relapse” and had trouble walking, I was reluctant to take any more drugs.
A well-known neurologist, Dr David Perlmutter, told me to seek out hyperbaric oxygen therapy for my next exacerbation. He, at the time, was located 1,000 miles away from me, making treatment at his facility impossible. It took me over 2 years to find somewhere that would offer HBOT to me “off label”. That means that insurance will not pay for it to treat MS (It has been used in England for MS since the 80’s, and insurance pays for it).
When Oxygen Oasis Hyperbaric Wellness Center opened last year, about two miles from my house, I was thrilled! Whenever I am wobbling when I walk and need a cane, am having serious trouble with fatigue or feel other MS symptoms, I go to Oxygen Oasis for 5-10 treatments. Usually, five days of hyperbaric oxygen therapy gets me incredibly better, and everyone who watches me is as amazed and happy as I am about the improvements!!
The benefits of HBOT for MS sufferers are so wonderful that I want to help other MS people know about it. Until it is clinically proven – that HBOT improves MS symptoms, the FDA will not approve it for health insurance coverage. That kind of proof requires a great deal of money, and pharmaceutical companies which sell extremely expensive MS drugs ($56,000 a year for the last one a neurologist wanted me to take, with dangerous side effects. I did not take it!) are not going to spend any money to prove that hyperbaric oxygen therapy works.
Until the MS Society or other organizations wake up and recognize the exciting help for MS sufferers that HBOT can offer, it is up to us to be our own “best advocates”, listen to fellow MS patients, and do what will help ourselves!!”