Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a method of ophthalmic treatment that administers high-pressured oxygen to clients in a specially designed chamber. HBOT effectively treats a number of ophthalmic conditions, as well as many conditions affecting other body systems, by delivering oxygen directly to tissues and organs to promote healing. It is extremely useful as a treatment method for eye disease or after damage has been incurred through injury or surgery. Ophthalmic conditions prevented or alleviated by HBOT include: retinal artery occlusion, macular degeneration, nonarteritic ischemic optic neuropathy, blindness resulting from lack of oxygen, glaucoma and cataracts.
Research shows that clients with ocular disease who have been treated with HBOT show significant improvement in visual acuity and visual fields, even after more traditional methods of treatment have failed. Studies prove that HBOT encourages eye health by:
- Decreasing inflammation
- Increasing blood flow within the eye
- Decreasing intraocular pressure
- Reducing blindness caused by lack of oxygen
- Speeding the healing process after surgery
- Decreasing postsurgical scar formation
- Destroying bacteria responsible for infection
- Improving the efficiency of the immune system
- Enhancing the effect of some antibiotics
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is usually administered in sessions between one and two hours long. Most often, the patient is placed alone in a monoplace chamber, although some hyperbaric chambers can accommodate as many as 12 clients simultaneously.The oxygen level in the chamber is three times that of normal air pressure. As this highly concentrated oxygen is inhaled, it travels throughout the body, including to the eyes, stimulating healing. While occasionally clients experience improvement after just one session, in most cases several sessions over a period of days or weeks are necessary. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is considered "off-label" for use with ocular disease and there are some risks associated with its use. Clients should carefully evaluate benefits and risks of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in consultation with their physicians before beginning a course of treatment.