Although experts still have not been able to pinpoint an exact cause of autism, they have been pleased with the results of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, or HBOT. It supports a reasonable belief that perhaps autism may be the result of a lack of oxygen to the brain. So far, the treatment has shown positive results in studies and in current patients.
There have been other reasons cited as possible causes of autism. Doctors have cited infections or high fevers in early childhood or infancy, brain trauma during birth, mercury poisoning or toxins from other chemicals, and low blood flow to the brain. Any of these causes effectively makes the case for HBOT treatments. An increased supply of oxygen can heal the traumas caused in each situation.
HBOT treatments work by supplying oxygen that is above normal atmospheric pressure through a confined chamber. Normal oxygen is also mixed with the pressurized oxygen. The oxygen levels in the body during this treatment are 20 times greater than normal. It speeds healing of the body’s organs and tissues and of the brain. Not only is the malfunction that is prompting the illness reversed, but the reversal triggers the body to restore tissue and heal on its own.
Studies have shown that HBOT is effective in other treatments, as well. In one, several children with autism showed decreased aggression, and increase in direct eye contact and improved responses to verbal commands. Researchers noted their improved abilities to reason and the fact that they threw fewer tantrums and exhibited less rage. It is important to note that these tests did not claim a cure, yet they did not the successful shift in harmful behaviors. The findings are significant enough for doctors to consider this as another therapy for treating autism.
One researcher, Dr. Jolly-Gabriel, has noted a striking improvement in the quality of life for some of his patients. These patients have better social communication skills. A BMC Pediatrics article suggests that Jolly-Gabriel’s research could be the beginning of discovering more possibilities for HBOT. In March 2009, the research facility did a study of 62 children, ages two to seven, who were autistic. Some of the subjects received 40 hours of treatment for more than a month and were noticeably less irritable and more responsive to others who spoke to them. Those who did not receive HBOT did not show these positive signs.
Although neither study can say definitively why the HBOT treatments worked, they believe it may be connected to reduced inflammation in the brain and the brain’s improved absorption of oxygen. Most experts agree there is much more research to be done before a definitive explanation can be offered. However, many doctors are willing to try the therapy to improve their patients’ lives.