Lyme Disease and Hyperbaric Therapy

While there are only an estimated 150,000 people afflicted with Lyme Disease in the United States, the incidence rate continues to soar at an alarming rate each year.  The CDC speculates that because the condition mimics so many other illnesses, the actual number of people with Lyme disease may be 5 to 10 times higher than the estimated 150,000 of reported cases coping with the disease.

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted to humans by infected deer ticks.  While short term sufferers of Lyme report symptoms including bull’s-eye rash, fever, flu-like symptoms, migraines, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, a large number of cases are misdiagnosed and quickly develop into a more serious condition known as late disseminated Lyme.

Late disseminated Lyme comprises many debilitating symptoms and has been considered difficult to treat in the medical community.  Symptoms include fever, flu-like symptoms, migraines, fatigue, muscle and joint aches seen in early stage Lyme, but are also accompanied by immune system dysfunction, nervous system abnormalities, chronic axonal polyneuropathy, or encephalopathy, cognitive disorders, sleep disturbance, personality changes, and cardiac problems.  While the condition is not considered fatal, symptomology is so severe that the many patients are bed-bound.

Due to the vast range of symptomology present in Lyme, often times patients are misdiagnosed with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, depression, or even arthritis.  In addition, there is not one diagnostic test for the condition, further complicating a diagnosis and proper treatment.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) has been used more and more frequently in the past decade to treat Lyme disease.  A ground breaking study published by Dr. William Fife of Texas A&M University, demonstrated dramatic improvements in overall condition of Lyme patients treated with hyperbaric.  Hyperbaric has been shown to reduce pain significantly, modulate the immune system, increase energy, alleviate sleep dysfunction, and reduce cognitive impairment.  In most cases, patients are also able to discontinue use of antibiotics or other pharmaceuticals.

Hyperbaric oxygen treatments infuse the body with oxygen, increasing O2 levels by up to 1000% in body tissues through the increased pressure.  Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme are considered microaerophilic, needing small amounts of oxygen to survive, but dies in the presence of abundant oxygen.  Hyperbaric also acts as an immune modulator and allows organ and gland functionality to normalize, reducing many debilitating Lyme symptoms.  Because the chambers pressurize the atmosphere, hyperbaric acts as a detoxifier as well.  By forcing oxygen into the tissues through this pressure, toxins, chemicals and other impurities are forced out.

As with antibiotic treatment, patients may experience a Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction, after initial hyperbaric oxygen treatment.  Also known as “Herxing”, the reaction occurs when the Borrelia burgdorferi are destroyed, resulting in a temporary “die off” effect causing fever, chills and weakness to occur for a short period of time.  Many times a Herxheimer reaction indicates that a Lyme therapy is effective.