Total Lipedema Care

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Lymphedema:
Is the Latest A-List - Obsessed Health Trend
Worth the Hype?

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Another quirky, peculiar celebrity health trend or a potential, groundbreaking treatment to help reverse the life-challenging effects of lymphedema?  Let’s take a deep breath and dive right in.

It’s not something out of the latest sci-fi flick, yet it’s gotten the attention of Hollywood’s A-listers, NBA sports stars, and swoon-worthy, pop-singing heartthrobs.  If you’ve been wondering why snaps of your favorite stars lying inside futuristic, formidable looking chambers are suddenly popping up in your social media feeds, here’s why.  Plus, we look at what hyperbaric oxygen therapy means for those living with lymphedema.

What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is the treatment process where one continuously breathes pure oxygen within a controlled, pressurized environment (chamber).  Originally recognized for treating decompression ailments, which is a common side effect of deep-sea diving or scuba diving, the trendy treatment also indicates other conditions, such as bubbles of air in the blood vessels and troublesome wounds that fail to heal properly due to diabetes or radiation therapy.  The hyperbaric oxygen chamber contains purified air that is pressurized 2-3 times higher than normal, allowing lungs to intake maximum quantities of oxygen in a limited amount of time.  This stimulates the release of growth factors and stem cells, promoting natural healing.  Each session lasts approximately 2 hours to complete and is fully monitored by a healthcare professional to ensure a safe, smooth operation.  Tinseltown touts its purported antibacterial and anti aging effects, yet there is little evidence to suggest lying in a clear, acrylic chamber for the duration of an entire night turns back the hands of time or prevents Covid or other common viruses, though Justin Bieber swears by his two personal chambers.  Generally, an effective procedure with little to no complications, one may experience the following low-risk side effects after undergoing hyperbaric oxygen therapy:

  • Middle ear injuries/pain
  • Temporary nearsightedness
  • Lung collapse
  • Lower blood sugar levels in those with diabetes and who are treated with insulin injections

To fully benefit from hyperbaric oxygen therapy, you’ll likely require numerous sessions.  It’s not a one-and-done, quick fix.  For instance, carbon monoxide poisoning can be treated in as little as 2-3 sessions, where non-healing wounds may take up to 40 or more sessions!  

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and the Lymphedema Link
Though still an emerging therapy for those living with lymphedema, especially women who’ve undergone chemotherapy to treat breast cancer, hyperbaric oxygen therapy can help stimulate the growth of new lymphatic channels, as well as lead to the reduction in scar tissue of the surrounding areas in the armpit where lymph nodes were removed.  The verdict is still out on whether the treatment is a viable one, as research from clinical trials performed prior to 2004 suggest lymphedema may or may not be positively impacted by continuous hyperbaric oxygen therapy, according to a pilot study published in the December 2004 Journal of Women’s Health.  Another pilot study conducted between 2017 and 2019 found no significant improvement in lymphedema symptoms of 14 patients.  Conversely, there was little empirical evidence that suggested hyperbaric oxygen therapy in conjunction with other therapies (compression garments, lymphatic drainage massage, etc.) proved to be effective in some patients.  

Conclusion
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is an effective tool to help mitigate many non-healing wounds and decompression sickness, however, there remains little evidence suggesting the health-trend-of-the-moment has any substantial effect on reversing lymphedema, at least for the long-term. While it’s encouraged patients to be open to a variety of treatments to help manage their lymphedema symptoms, it’s also suggested hyperbaric oxygen therapy should not be relied upon as the sole course of treatment.  It never hurts to try something new and keep an open mind.  With that being said, a diverse treatment trajectory monitored by a healthcare provider ensures long-term success in the management of lymphedema. 

To learn more, please contact our Beverly Hills, California office to schedule a consultation with any of our highly trained specialists.

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