Lyme Disease: Can hyperbaric oxygen therapy help?
Learn more about Lyme disease and how HBOT can help with recovery
Often called ‘the great imitator’ because many of its symptoms resemble those of other diseases, Lyme disease is becoming increasingly common across the United States. Cases of Lyme disease have also been reported in South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.
Learn more about the causes, symptoms and diagnosis of Lyme disease, and how hyperbaric oxygen therapy can help you with your recovery.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. It’s transmitted to humans through the bite of infected black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks. Lyme disease was first diagnosed in 1975 in Lyme, Connecticut by Allen Steere, MD.
What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
The symptoms of Lyme disease differ depending on the length of time since infection.
Early signs and symptoms of Lyme disease (3–30 days after tick bite) include:
- Muscle and joint aches
- In 70–80% of cases a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans (EM) resembling a bullseye will appear at the site of the tick bite.
The characteristic bullseye rash doesn’t appear in all cases of Lyme disease. There may be a different type of rash or even no rash at all, meaning that Lyme disease is often misdiagnosed.
If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system.
Later signs and symptoms of Lyme disease (days to months after tick bite) include:
- Severe headaches and neck stiffness
- Additional EM rashes on other areas of the body
- Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, particularly the knees and other large joints
- Facial palsy (loss of muscle tone or droop on one or both sides of the face)
- Intermittent pain in tendons, muscles, joints and bones
- Heart palpitations or an irregular heart beat (Lyme carditis)
- Episodes of dizziness or shortness of breath
- Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
- Nerve pain
- Shooting pains, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- Problems with short-term memory.
How is Lyme disease diagnosed?
Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings such as the EM rash, and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks. Laboratory tests can also be helpful in many cases to aid diagnosis.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) estimates that around 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year in the United States.
Nearly all Lyme medical specialists agree that early detection and treatment of Lyme disease significantly improves the chance of a full recovery. Studies have shown that early detection (within 6–8 weeks) can produce a high cure rate and lessen the chance of chronic, long-term problems.
Diagnosing chronic Lyme disease can be challenging, because many of the presenting symptoms often resemble those of other conditions. Many patients suffer for years because of misdiagnosis and the periodic dormancy of symptoms. The Western blot test can be used to diagnose chronic Lyme disease, but often produces false positives.
How do you treat Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is typically treated with antibiotics. Physicians will often prescribe a combination of antibiotics that target the different ways in which the bacterium can affect your body.
Treatments for chronic Lyme disease may include antibiotics, and also alternative methods such as IV therapies and supplements. Many doctors do not recommend long term antibiotic use, because of the potential lasting effects on the body.
How can hyperbaric oxygen therapy help with Lyme disease?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) works by exposing the body to an atmosphere of 100% oxygen, in an enclosed chamber where the atmospheric pressure is increased and controlled.
A study by researchers at Texas A&M University saw that 84.8% of patients who were treated with HBOT for Lyme disease showed significant improvement of symptoms, including mental confusion, pain, depression and fatigue, with approximately 70% of patients showing a lasting benefit upon follow-up examination.
Based on our years of experience treating patients with Lyme disease, we’ve seen a great quality of life improvement—and in many cases a complete resolution of symptoms—when HBOT is used as adjunct therapy alongside traditional medical treatments.
How we treat patients with Lyme disease
For patients suffering from Lyme disease, we use a course of aggressive hyperbaric treatments at a deeper depth than we typically use when treating other conditions. We’ve successfully treated patients of all ages for Lyme disease, and we’ve found that alternating the depth over treatment sessions has produced the best results.
To help patients comfortably handle these deeper pressures, we build air breaks (where the patient returns to breathing normal air for a period of time) into each treatment. All of our hyperbaric chambers have been upgraded with air break technology, so our patients can continue to relax and do not have to leave the chamber during their treatment session.
We continually monitor our Lyme disease patients to see how they’re responding to treatment. Before and after every session, we’ll take your vitals – heart rate, blood pressure and temperature – to keep you safe and comfortable.
Based on published studies, we usually recommend a course of 40 treatments for our Lyme disease patients. Many patients begin to see a reduction in symptoms after 10 treatments, and a noticeable quality of life improvement after they’ve completed 20 treatments.
If you think you may be suffering from Lyme disease, we recommend you schedule an appointment with a doctor that has experience in treating this condition. At Hyperbaric Healing Treatment Center, we have a longstanding relationship with The Center for Natural and Integrative Medicine in Orlando, who specialize in treating patients with Lyme Disease.
Ready to schedule an appointment? Call our office at (407) 530-0710 or get in touch on our Contact page.
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