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How Hyperbaric Therapy for Autism is Giving Hope to ASD Affected Kids

Autism spectrum disorder, or more commonly known as ASD, is based on multiple factors, both genetic and environmental. 

As for children, it leads to a unique personality which is often an embodiment of severe symptoms of the disorder. Thus, concerned parents and caregivers are on the lookout for an alternative form of treatment. 

Hyperbaric therapy for autism picks up on the same line backed by medical studies vouching for its efficacy. Although the positive effects of hyperbaric therapy are yet to witness a far-flung reach, randomized controlled trials bring in a lot of hope for patients at large. 

As an alternative form of treatment, hyperbaric therapy has already gained widespread accessibility. The FDA too recognizes the treatment as an on-label option for a long line of disorders. However, the challenge is the limited number of hospitals and private clinics offering it for autism. 

Sincerely, there have been some guidelines prescribed by FDA towards resorting to using hyperbaric therapy for autism. As an obvious consequence, anyone looking to book a session will have to deal with it as an off-label recommendation, which does incur heavy expenses falling out of their medical coverage. 

This post discusses the nature of ASD affecting kids, along with the findings of medical studies where hyperbaric therapy can help. 

 Understanding ASD and the Role Of Hyperbaric Therapy 

Predominantly a neurodevelopmental disorder, ASD results in impairment of social communication and interaction. Additionally, some children are known to depict a reckless show of behavior and widely variable interests and activities.

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders states the symptoms of ASD in children are generally present during the early formative years, affecting daily episodes of life. However, such occurrences do not necessarily mean complete intellectual disability of any sort. As such, oxidative stress, weak immunity, cerebral hypoperfusion, and mitochondrial dysfunction are all known to have been associated with autism.

While behavioral intervention and structural education seem to work fine in limiting the issues with ASD, pharmacotherapy has also helped to deal with a comorbid mood. Behavior, sleep patterns, thought disorders, and impulse control remains a challenge, for which alternative treatment is sought. 

Hyperbaric therapy involves breathing in oxygen at atmospheric pressure, which triggers cerebral perfusion in autistic children. When oxygen above the atmosphere is inhaled, there occurs a rise in the arterial partial pressure. In other words, it carries fresh oxygen to the brain, especially across the deprived areas. 

Additionally, hyperbaric therapy for autism is known to induce anti-inflammation, reducing pro-inflammatory cytokines. With the upregulation of the production of antioxidant enzymes, mitochondrial dysfunction is also taken care of. 

Studies That Support the Role of Hyperbaric Therapy for Autism 

A 2006 medical study reports statistically improved clinical symptoms for more than thirty children aged between two and seven, subjected to hyperbaric therapy. Reportedly, each one of them was subjected to hyperbaric sessions of no less than forty minutes to one hour.

In another study, a total of seven autistic children aged between five and nine, depicted marked improvement in terms of language development, self-help, coordination of eye and hand, and motor skills. The children were all subjected to a total of ten such sessions of hyperbaric therapy. 

Additionally, there have been several cases accounting to measure inflammation as well as oxidative stress in establishing the efficacy of hyperbaric therapy for autism.

Other studies involved the evaluation of more than fifteen children, aged between three and sixteen, battling autism and undergoing around forty-five minutes of hyperbaric sessions. The group demonstrated marked improvement in regards to the mean C-reactive protein level. Furthermore, the clinical outcome ratings as reported by parents also depicted significant improvement.

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In tracing the effects of hyperbaric therapy for autism, researchers also took into account changes in cytokine levels, both before and after hyperbaric sessions. All children undergoing the process reportedly depicted improved social behavior and cognitive skill. 

 Randomized Control Trials 

More than fifty autistic children, aged between two and seven, were subjected to randomized control trials in the USA, where they received hyperbaric therapy (forty sessions) for over a month. Children with disorders like Asperger syndrome, asthma, seizures, ear pressure inabilities, and fragile X syndrome were the ones excluded from the study. 

About thirty percent of children in the group reported greatly improved behavioral patterns, and only eight percent showed not much improvement. 

A statistically supreme and significant behavioral improvement was taken into account between pre and post-treatment comparisons, right along the Aberrant Behaviour Checklist that included factors like stereotypy, irritability, speech, and hyperactivity. Also, with regards to cognitive or sensory awareness levels, the HBOT group witnessed significant improvement.

Wrap Up 

Beginning as a treatment option for decompression sickness, hyperbaric oxygen therapy has come a long way to usher positivity in treating autism. 

Although there is a sheer lack of conclusive evidence to recognize the same for autism treatment, research studies have a different story to tell. While one awaits the official nod from FDA in the distant future (if any at all), hyperbaric therapy for autism is keeping hopes high for ASD affected kids and their families. 

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