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Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Oxygen therapy: Fresh air relief for multiple sclerosis patients
CAN regularly inhaling pure O2 help ease the symptoms of multiple sclerosis?
Every week Brendan Hilton steps into a high-pressure chamber, pulls a mask over his face and breathes in a high dose of oxygen. The 32-year-old, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, has found that the treatment eases symptoms of the incurable disease.
In the UK and Ireland about 5,000 patients regularly have oxygen therapy lasting about an hour in chambers holding up to 12 people.
It uses the same technology as in the pressurised cabins of passenger jets and some research suggests that delivering high doses of pure oxygen can reduce inflammation which is a key feature of MS.
The treatment is offered at more than 60 centres throughout the UK, each run as an individual charity.
"I feel energised and sleep better after having oxygen," says Brendan, a former car mechanic who was diagnosed with the disease seven years ago. He initially noticed that he was suffering from double vision but it took six years for the cause to be established.
"I was playing pool on holiday and couldn't see the balls properly," he explains. "I was also suffering from headaches. It happened again at work about a year later." Tests revealed a swelling on the nerve ending behind the eye. It was treated purely as a vision problem but is one of the first signs of MS.
Brendan adds: "It would flare up occasionally, then my mum pointed out that I was crossing my feet when I was walking. I realised it was due to a weakness in my right hip."
Finally following an MRI scan Brendan was called in urgently by a neurologist and told he had MS, a condition that affects the central nervous system including the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.
"My first reaction was disbelief and I thought they had mixed up my medical records," says Brendan. "I didn't know much about MS and assumed I would end up in a wheelchair but as I learned more, I was determined to get on with life."