Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disorder characterized by inflammation of the gastrointestinal lining, which causes abdominal pain. Other symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal discomforts, arthritis, inflammation of the eye, and skin rashes.
Common complications of Crohn’s disease include the development of intestinal obstruction, abnormal connecting channels known as fistula and pus-filled pockets of infection called abscesses. Fistula may develop connecting two different parts of the intestine, the intestine and bladder, or the intestine and the skin surface, especially around the anus. When the large intestine is affected by Crohn’s disease, rectal bleeding can occur.
Crohn’s disease is associated with certain disorders affecting other parts of the body, such as gallstones and insufficient absorption of nutrients. When Crohn’s disease causes a flare-up of gastrointestinal symptoms, the patient may also experience inflammation of the joints, or arthritis. There are micro-circulation disorders in bowel mucosa, hypoxia (lack of oxygen), and changes in catecholamine and other metabolisms when there is chronic inflammation. These factors are the reasoning behind the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in conjunction with conventional medical management, in the treatment of this disease when medication has not relieved symptoms.
Preliminary studies suggest that hyperbaric oxygen therapy can help diminish symptoms during a flare-up of Crohn’s disease, potentially due to modulation of the immune system, especially with regard to inflammation. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy limits inflammation in the bowels,and lowers levels of C-reactive protein and tumor necrosis factor alpha, which are markers of inflammation in the body. Pain can be alleviated, the patient’s weight can improve, and bowel movements can return almost to normal. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy warrants consideration in treatment of Crohn’s disease not responding to conventional treatments.