Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)
and Lyme Disease

by Rashmi Gulati, MD
Rashmi Gulati Head Shot

In 1977 Lyme disease was discovered in the United States in the town for which it is named, Lyme, Connecticut. However, records dating back to the 1880s tell of conditions with the same symptoms as Lyme. It is caused by a spirochete, a spiral shaped bacteria, called Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb). It is transmitted when a human or animal is bitten by a tick carrying the disease. Since 1977 researchers have identified over 100 strains of bacterium that cause Lyme disease. It is usually transmitted by three particular species of tick, although other ticks are known to be carriers too. The three species are:

  • The black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis) on the East Coast and in the Midwest (commonly known as the deer tick).
  • The western black-legged tick (Ixodes pacificus) in the western U.S. (also commonly known as the deer tick).
  • The lone-star tick (Amblyomma americanum), located within a rectangle encompassing Texas, Florida, Rhode Island, and Iowa.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) shows promise in helping Lyme patients because Lyme bacteria are microaerophilic organisms, requiring very little free oxygen, and are debilitated in high oxygen environments. HBOT increases the amount of oxygen in the body, which in turn causes several physiological changes that can result in accelerated healing, reduction of inflammation (particularly of neuroinflammation), and angiogenesis. Angiogenesis is defined as the development of blood vessels in the body. This may become important in the treatment of Lyme disease as it is believed that Lyme bacteria effectively evade antibiotics by moving away from normal blood flow into tissue, organs, and bone. Thus, the further the antibiotic can move into these areas through a more dense and extensive system of blood vessels, the greater the opportunity to exterminate the Bb organism. Elevated oxygen levels in tissues and blood plasma also inhibit bacterial function.

There is emerging evidence that certain antibiotics may be more readily incorporated into the cell wall of the bacteria itself in the presence of elevated oxygen tension, which is the environment created in the body during hyperbaric oxygen therapy. This evidence is an example of HBOT working synergistically with antibiotic therapy. Reduction of inflammation, especially in affected nerves, is thought to alleviate neurological symptoms of chronic Lyme sufferers.

Patients Medical makes no claims as to hyperbaric oxygen therapy efficacy for any condition other than the indications approved by the FDA. Information within this site is provided for informational and educational purposes only. This information is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your personal physician or any other medical professional. You should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.

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