HBOT and Alzheimer’s
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy delivers 100 percent oxygen at increased air pressure. This allows for oxygen to flood the body’s blood, cells, and tissues. Because Alzheimer’s disease is the result of abnormalities in the brain, researchers believe that flooding the brain with increased oxygen levels will have positive results. A study published in 2018 showed just that. Researchers from Tel Aviv University administered HBOT sessions to transgenic mice, or mice engineered to develop Alzheimer’s. They underwent two weeks of daily HBOT sessions. Their results show that HBOT treatments reduce oxygen starvation and inflammation in the brain. It also reduces the burden of amyloid plaques, as well as shows a decrease in tau tangles. The researchers saw observable changes and improvements in behavioral symptoms.
Beginning hyperbaric oxygen treatment in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, before brain cells sustain permanent damage, offers the best results.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging, though it typically doesn’t affect patients until after the age of 65. Those that experience it earlier in life receive a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s. In the early stages, memory loss is very mild, often brushed aside as simple aging. As the disease progresses, patients lose the ability to engage in normal conversation.
Researchers believe that Alzheimer’s disease is the result of damage to brain cells, with the main culprits being plaques and tangles. Plaques are deposits of beta-amyloid fragments that build up and cluster together between nerve cells. Tangles are twisted fibers of the protein tau and build up inside cells. These plaques and tangles begin in the memory section of the brain and continue to spread. Researchers believe that these plaques and tangles disrupt normal communication in the nerve cells. This leads to cell death and the loss of memory function in the brain. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s as well as no current treatment available to help slow the progression.
Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s
While the main symptom of Alzheimer’s is memory loss, it’s not just about forgetting things. It can cause a person to repeat the same question or story repeatedly. They forget conversations they just had. An individual gets lost in places they were normally familiar with, for example, how to get home from the store. They forget the names of family members and everyday objects. The ability to remember the right words or phrases in conversations becomes impossible.
In addition to memory issues, individuals with Alzheimer’s experience:
- Thinking and Reasoning – Concentration and thinking become problematic, especially with numbers. A person who used to thrive on multitasking may struggle to do one thing now.
- Impaired Decision-making – A person’s ability to make reasonable decisions when it comes to things like appropriate clothing to wear with the weather, cooking a meal, or even driving ability changes.
- Performing Simple Tasks – Tasks like playing a game or the steps needed to cook a meal may get lost or confused. Even basic tasks, such as getting dressed in the morning, cause confusion.
- Behavioral Changes – As the brain forgets and stops working properly, moods and behavior change. This includes depression, social withdrawal, mood swings, unexplained anger or aggressiveness, changes in sleeping, loss of inhibitions, and delusions.
- Physical Changes – As the disease progresses, it begins to affect physical function. For example, a person may experience trouble swallowing, balance issues, and loss of bowel and bladder control.
- Malnutrition and Dehydration – With memory loss, people forget to eat or drink because they believe that they already had something to eat or drink.
Traditional Treatment Options
Traditional treatment focuses on trying to improve cognitive abilities and provide a safe environment for the person. Two types of drugs currently treat cognitive symptoms. Cholinesterase inhibitors boost cell-to-cell communication and improve neuropsychiatric symptoms. Memantine targets the brain cell communication network and, in some cases, can slow the progression.
Treatment also focuses on creating a safe home environment for the patient. Creating a regular routine can help make life easier. Arranging for a friend, family member, or regular caregiver provides guidance and security for an Alzheimer’s patient. It also helps avoid any potential accidents or complications.
While Hyperbaric oxygen is not FDA-approved for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, off-label use allows physicians to treat and provide benefits in Alzheimer’s patients. If you would like more information about how HBOT can help you or a loved one, contact our office at 727.787.7077 to set up an initial consultation. Dr. Spiegel and his team will work with you to develop an individualized treatment plan. Click HERE to fill out our online information form.