(11/11/2009) One of the biggest threats facing the more than 17 million Americans afflicted with diabetes is chronic wounds, or repeated injuries that never fully heal due to the poor circulation in certain areas of the body. More than 15 percent of people with any type of diabetes suffer from these chronic wounds and sores, and approximately one in every 10 person dealing with diabetes will have to undergo surgery to have part of the leg – most commonly the foot – amputated. However, doctors have recently discovered that the process of hyperbaric oxygen treatment can be used to advance the healing process of chronic wounds in people with diabetes.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a medical process that involves using oxygen at a level higher than atmospheric pressure to increase the pressure on wound areas, as well as aid blood flow. Originally, this type of therapy was created to save deep sea divers suffering from decompression sickness, but over the years it has been realized that hyperbaric oxygen therapy has medical benefits in treating a variety of serious injuries and illnesses, including diabetes-induced chronic wounds.

When a person who is suffering from diabetes incurs a wound, specifically on the leg or foot, the blood circulation is reduced and this affects the body’s ability to naturally heal the wound. This dilemma can lead to nerve damage and loss of sensation, which in turn can disable many of the tell-tale symptoms of most wounds, including basic pain. Chronic wounds and open sores can develop into infection, and eventually a possible need to amputate.

While controversial and limited to patients with a clean bill of health (other than the obvious necessity of treatment), hyperbaric oxygen therapy has shown prior clinical success in the treatment of:

-    Strokes
-    Cerebral Palsy and brain-injured children
-    Multiple Sclerosis
-    Carbon monoxide poisoning
-    Burns
-    Crush injuries
-    Radiation poison and injuries
-    Soft tissue infections
-    Air or gas embolisms
-    Autism (In treatments of specific length, hyperbaric oxygen treatment has shown serious improvements in the behavior of children with autism)

For more information on hyperbaric oxygen treatment, its uses, and hospitals and treatment centers that provide it, visit the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society’s web site at http://www.uhms.org/.

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