What is multiple sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis is a highly mysterious, lifelong autoimmune disorder that causes a wide range of symptoms and can lead to serious disability. The condition is 2 to 3 times more common in women than men, and it’s estimated that there are more than 100,000 people in the UK suffering from it.
MS occurs because the immune system attacks the insulating covers of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, mistaking them for foreign substances. These attacks cause patchy inflammation that disrupts the messages travelling along the nerves, slowing them down, jumbling them up, sending them the wrong way or blocking them completely. These disruptions result in numerous physical and mental signs and symptoms, commonly including:
- vision problems
- numbness and tingling
- stiffness, weakness, muscle spasms and mobility problems
- bowel and bladder control problems
- sexual dysfunction
- anxiety and depression
- problems with thinking, learning and planning
- slurred speech and difficulties swallowing.
What causes the immune system to initiate these attacks is currently unknown. There is no single thing that triggers the development of MS, but it’s likely caused in part by the genes we inherit from our parents, and in part by external factors. These include a lack of sunlight and vitamin D, smoking and viral infections such as glandular fever.
Periods when symptoms worsen are called “relapses”, and periods when symptoms improve or vanish are called “remissions”. While there is no actual cure for MS, there are treatments available to deal with specific MS symptoms or to combat relapses, as well as to reduce the frequency of relapses.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is one alternative therapy that comes highly recommended by an increasing number of doctors. Why, then, has the medical community been so slow to accept it?
Dr Philip James, Emeritus Professor of Medicine at the University of Dundee, talks about this in his article, Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis Patients. He points out that some doctors allege that controlled trials have shown that HBOT is of no value for MS patients. He says that “this is not correct” and that the trials did show benefit. However, in a lot of them, the benefits were limited because HBOT was used on patients who had been suffering from MS for many years, and MS is a condition that is best treated early.
Dr James refers to a number of probative studies that are often minimised or misunderstood by the medical community. These studies prove beyond reasonable doubt that HBOT can alleviate the symptoms of MS, reduce the number of relapses, and improve the level of remission.
HBOT for multiple sclerosis: the evidence
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study, published in 1983 and conducted by Dr Fischer et al of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society of America, clearly indicated that patients with MS could benefit from HBOT. However, they acknowledged that the benefits were mostly transient and that further studies were warranted.
A range of further studies exists. In 1984, hyperbaric physician Dr R. A. Neubauer learned that more than 10,000 MS patients in 14 countries had been given HBOT. He analysed these cases and found that an estimated 70% showed improvement in brain, bowel and bladder function, and a reduction in muscular spasticity and other MS-caused disorders. In 1986, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study conducted by Dr T. Yamada in Japan found that HBOT led to a significant decrease in the number of relapses in MS patients. And in 1989, UK organisation Action for Research into Multiple Sclerosis (ARMS) conducted a 2-year controlled study involving 128 HBOT patients. 70% of patients either did not deteriorate, saw their condition stabilise, or showed small improvements.
In 2005, Dr David Perrins published a further report. He followed 800 patients with MS over 15 years and was able to show beyond doubt that regular HBOT can benefit the majority of patients by stabilising their condition.
Taking into account the evidence, Dr Philip James concludes:
It has been noted by Perrins and others that regular sessions are required for HBOT to be effective for MS. In addition, the response to HBOT is better in patients with a less advanced form of the disease. It is therefore recommended that HBOT is commenced as soon as MS is diagnosed.
But 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.
Dr James sums up the benefits of HBOT as follows:
Hyperbaric expert Robert Pender, will discuss your MS with you in an initial consultation, in order to give an accurate estimate on how many sessions of hyperbaric therapy you will require in order to see improvements in your health.
Here at the Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Centre in London, HBOT sessions are administered by co-founder and world-renowned hyperbaric expert Robert Pender. For more information, contact us on 0203 823 1212 or email@example.com, or book a consultation at our Chelsea-based clinic.