The hormone insulin is responsible for regulating our blood sugar levels. Diabetes occurs when there is not enough insulin, and our blood sugar levels become too high. If left untreated, diabetes can cause serious complications, including non-healing wounds, heart disease, chronic kidney failure, loss of sight, diabetic coma and death.
The main types of diabetes are:
• Type 1 diabetes: where the immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin.
• Type 2 diabetes: where the cells fail to respond to insulin properly (insulin resistance) and, as the disease progresses, where the body fails to produce enough insulin.
• Gestational diabetes: where a woman during pregnancy develops such high levels of blood sugar that her body cannot produce enough insulin to absorb it all. (This usually resolves itself after the birth of the baby.)
Type 2 diabetes is by far the most common type, accounting for 90% of all diabetes cases. The primary cause is excessive body weight and not enough exercise.
Approximately 415 million people worldwide have diabetes. It is a chronic disease and there is no known cure. However, treatments are available to manage the disease, which focus on keeping blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible. The best ways of managing diabetes are a healthy diet, exercise, weight loss, appropriate medications and complementary therapies like Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy.
Diabetes and feet
Diabetic foot ulcers are one of the most significant and devastating complications that can occur in diabetes cases, to the point that all diabetes patients are encouraged to take excellent care of their feet.
Diabetes can reduce the blood supply to the feet, and skin with a poor blood supply does not heal as well or as quickly as normal. This means, if you injure your foot, the wound can become a chronic or non-healing ulcer.
Additionally, diabetes can cause a loss of feeling in the feet known as peripheral neuropathy. So if you cut or scratch your foot, or develop a blister because of a tight shoe, you may not notice the injury. Therefore you’re less likely to take steps to heal the wound, which can quickly worsen and turn into an ulcer.
Diabetic foot ulcers are a major causative factor in lower leg amputations.
How does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy work?
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is the administration of oxygen under pressure. Patients enter a special chamber and breathe in 100% oxygen at greater-than-normal atmospheric pressures. This is more oxygen than you usually get because there is only 21% of it in the air. However, it’s the heightened pressure that is key to enhancing health. The pressure causes the additional oxygen to dissolve in the plasma, the liquid part of the blood, driving high levels of oxygen into all body tissues.
In particular, the oxygen-saturated plasma is able to reach areas of the body where circulation is poor or blocked. Once there, the extra oxygen stimulates fast growth of new capillaries, thereby improving blood flow and nutrient delivery in those areas. This is why HBOT has proven to be an effective for enhancing the body’s ability to recover from diabetic foot ulcers and other chronic wounds that occur and fester because of poor blood supply. HBOT is also proven to enhance the capacity of the white blood cells to fight infection and stimulate proliferation of stem cells, which are important for tissue repair.
In other words, HBOT gives nature a big kick, bolstering the body’s ability to heal itself.
How does HBOT help with diabetic foot ulcers/wounds?
There is a great abundance of cases that demonstrate the efficacy of HBOT to help people recover from diabetic foot ulcers and non-healing wounds.
James Wilson, a type 2 diabetes sufferer from Montana, stepped on a nail while working. Due to his neuropathy, he barely noticed the injury and put it out of his mind. The poor blood flow to his feet caused the wound to become infected and the wound refused to close up, even after undergoing treatment. After 40 to 90-minute sessions of HBOT over the course of 8 weeks, the wound healed and Wilson is now healthier than he’s been in years. He says:
Joplin diabetes patient Jim Cummings was in danger of losing his foot after what looked like a harmless scratch on his ankle developed into a chronic, non-healing wound. After 6 weeks of 2-hour HBOT sessions 5 days a week, the wound healed, saving Cummings from amputation.
But these are not isolated cases. Comprehensive medical studies investigating the efficacy of HBOT for diabetic foot ulcers have been carried out, and the results are highly encouraging.
In 2015, independent medical research network the Cochrane Collaboration assessed 12 controlled clinical trials with 577 participants and found the following:
• HBOT significantly improved the healing of diabetes-related ulcers after 6 weeks.
• HBOT reduced the number of major amputations in diabetes cases.
• HBOT significantly reduced the size of chronic ulcers.
HBOT can even help regulate your blood sugar
The diabetes-related benefits of HBOT are not confined to foot ulcers. A 2012 study looked at the effects of HBOT on peripheral insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetes patients. Diabetes patients have poor insulin sensitivity or insulin resistance, i.e. their bodies are not using insulin properly to regulate their blood sugar. The study found that HBOT increased insulin sensitivity in patients after 3 days of hyperbaric sessions, and this improvement was maintained for 30 sessions.
This proves that, in addition to weight loss, exercise and conventional medications, HBOT is an effective way of enhancing the body’s ability to heal and for maintaining proper blood sugar levels.
All of these results are testament to the healing power of oxygen. Dr Philip James, Emeritus Professor of Medicine at the University of Dundee, says this:
Here at the Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Centre in Chelsea, London, HBOT sessions are administered by hyperbaric expert Robert Pender. We offer all patients the privacy and respite of a single-person hyperbaric chamber (most clinics only offer multi-person chambers), and 2 times normal atmospheric pressure conditions (most clinics offer much less). We give diabetes patients the chance to absorb 10-15 times more oxygen than ordinary respiration will allow.
The number of hyperbaric therapy sessions you require in order to improve your health will depend on your specific needs, which will be discussed during your initial consultation. Contact the Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Centre on 0203 823 1212 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, book a consultation with our very own hyperbaric expert, Robert Pender.