How Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy can Cure Systemic Sclerosis Ulcers


Systemic sclerosis or SSc is a disease that causes fibrosis and vascular disorder along with autoimmune changes. This disease involves fibroblast activity that causes abnormal growth of the connective tissues. SSc gives birth to a number of skin problems including ulcers, itchy skin, and many other complexities. It is difficult to conclude what actually causes systemic sclerosis. It can be considered as a multisystem disease of an unknown cause. The term “autoimmune” (mentioned above) implies that the immune system is responding against the associated tissues. Pathogenesis brings both activated B cells and activated T lymphocytes together. As an outcome, autoantibodies and cytokines affect the cells that channel the blood vessels leading to vasoconstriction and fibroblasts. Fibroblasts produce excessive collagen, a medical complexity that is called fibrosis. Fibrosis is the reason behind Digital ulcers.

Symptoms of SSc

Raynaud phenomenon is the first indication of SSc. Affected patients may find their fingers and toes white and numb. This is the primary and main indication of this disease. Following this indication, other complexities (in most of the cases skin problem) will take place.

SSc and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)

Digital and leg ulcers are really hard to handle. Many treatments have been introduced to combat these complications among which hyperbaric oxygen therapy is the most preferred one. A case series has claimed that hyperbaric oxygen therapy or HBOT is really beneficial for SSc ulcers. Bengusu Mirasoglu, from Istanbul University, and his colleagues conducted an experiment on six SSc patients suffering badly from SSc ulcers. Three out of six patients had digital ulcer while the other three had leg ulcers. All of the six patients were given hyperbaric oxygen therapy. After taking the HBOT therapy, four among the six patients had completely recovered while other two patients got near-complete healing. They did not require amputation to cure their ulcers.

A Brief History of HBOT

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is not a new invention. It has a long history. The origin of hyperbaric therapy dates back nearly 350 years. In its infancy, HBOT treatment was conducted only to treat decompression sickness. During the late 1900s, several studies started shedding light to those indications that can be treated by HBOT. Still, the studies are going on. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already approved some indications including:

  • Air or Gas Embolism
  • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
  • Gas Gangrene
  • Crush Injury
  • Decompression Sickness
  • Wound/ulcer Healing
  • Abnormal Blood Loss
  • Intracranial abscess
  • Necrotizing soft tissue infections
  • Radiation injury
  • Skin Grafts and Flaps
  • Thermal Burns

There are many other indications that are not approved by FDA yet, but several studies have established that they can also be effectively treated by hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

How does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Combat SSc Ulcers?

In order to receive this treatment, you need to enter into a hyperbaric chamber. 100% pure oxygen is supplied to a hyperbaric chamber. Whenever the patients breathe normally inside the chamber, their bloodstream absorbs the pressurized oxygen with the help of the lungs. Eventually, the oxygen is carried throughout the body by the circulatory system. Overall, the patients receive up to 15 times the amount of the oxygen in comparison to inhaling air at the sea level.

Ulcers affect the blood vessels which are responsible for leaking into the tissue. It causes swelling. HBOT supplies oxygen to the affected tissues to reduce swelling. In this way, hyperbaric oxygen therapy energizes the ulcer-affected tissues and protects them from death.

Mono or Multiplace – Which Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber is Good for SSc Ulcer?

There are two types of hyperbaric chamber – monoplace and multiplace hyperbaric chamber. In a monoplace chamber, only one person can be treated at a single sitting. Multiplace chamber is much like a submarine. In this hyperbaric chamber, multiple patients can be treated at the same time. For systemic Sclerosis ulcers, you can choose any one type of hyperbaric chamber. Both serve the same function. Choose a chamber that is comfortable to you.

Final Overview

Don’t ignore systemic sclerosis ulcers if you love your life. It can take worst form if you overlook it. Consult your doctor and take hyperbaric oxygen therapy under his/her supervision. It would be better if you start the treatment at an earlier stage.

Feel free to write to us if you have any confusion about hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Lead a healthy life and be happy.

Chloe Paltrow
Chloe Paltrow, a medical assistant. She has shared her knowledge in various websites and blogs like PsychCentral, Collective Evolution and Pick The Brain. Currently, she is studying how brain injury and brain disorders can be treated with hyperbaric chambers.