Diseases and Conditions Treated with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

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Alzheimer’s Disease

Definition and Causes

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive and fatal brain disorder. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, the general term for loss of memory and thinking capacity. Named for German physician Alois Alzheimer, who first described the disease in 1906, it is the seventh leading cause of death in the US, killing nearly 75,000 a year and afflicting 5.3 million.

Alzheimer’s is caused by a buildup of protein plaques and tangles that slowly destroy brain cells and tissues. The disease progresses in three stages:

1. Preclinical: Imperceptible changes in the brain, without significant clinical symptoms.

2. Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI): Measurable problems with memory, without compromising independence.

3. Alzheimer’s Dementia: Further decline in cognition, affecting language, vision/spatial conception, and reasoning or judgment.

Alzheimer’s is a disease of aging, almost exclusively affecting people over 65 years old. Other risk factors include family history, head injury, cardiovascular disease, and poor general health and lifestyle choices.

Vascular dementia, the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer's disease, is caused by impaired blood flow to the brain.

Learn about vascular dementia »

Hyperbaric Oxygen Approval Status

FDA Cleared: No Learn more about clearance
and approval status »
UHMS Approved: No

Treatment with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) has not been shown to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s or other age-related dementias. Some physicians and families claim HBOT helps manage Alzheimer's symptoms and improve activities of daily living by increasing the circulation of oxygenated blood to functioning areas of the brain, but these palliative effects do not last.

hyperbariclink commentary

Alzheimer’s presents a nonvascular and seemingly irreversible mechanism of brain cell death and tissue loss. The biologic mechanism of age-related dementias differs greatly from vascular dementia and also from intracranial abscess and acute traumatic ischemias, two conditions for which hyperbaric oxygen is FDA-cleared to fight infection and aid in healing healthy brain tissue. Weak evidence from primary research and clinical trials does not support the use of hyperbaric oxygen for Alzheimer’s disease. Patients and families should be wary of bolder claims.

FDA cleared, widely reimbursed
Strong body of evidence
Repeatedly favorable results
Early or mixed results
Unfavorable or no evidence
Strong evidence against HBOT

Learn more about Evidence Index ratings, the research we use, and how we assign scores »

Patient Resources

HyperbaricLink recommends the following websites for anyone seeking authoritative information, patient advocacy, and community support for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Alzheimer’s Association

The Alzheimer's Association is the leading, global voluntary health organization in Alzheimer's care and support, and the largest private, nonprofit funder of Alzheimer's research. The association’s HONcode certified website, alz.org, provides an excellent resource for people living with Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center
National Institute on Aging
US National Institutes of Health

The US Congress created ADEAR to compile, archive, and disseminate information about Alzheimer's disease for health professionals, people affected by Alzheimer’s, and the public. The center provides reliable information and support via excellent web, telephone, and print communications.


The Alzheimer’s entry in Wikipedia provides quite thorough information about the mechanisms, causes, diagnosis, management, and impact of the disease, with plenty of helpful images and illustrations.


Clinical Resources

Start with the following resources to explore current research activities and the peer-reviewed medical literature on hyperbaric oxygen therapy for Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center
National Institute on Aging
US National Institutes of Health

Physicians and other health professionals will find an Alzheimer’s health literature search engine, the latest diagnostic guidelines, and other important information on the ADEAR website.

National Institutes of Health

ClinicalTrials.gov keeps the official list of human clinical trials currently enrolling, in progress, and recently completed. One may reasonably question the size and legitimacy of any study not listed here.

Search ClinicalTrials.gov for current studies of hyperbaric oxygen therapy and Alzheimer's disease

Google Scholar

A specialized Google search engine, Google Scholar indexes scholarly articles, patents, and legal opinions and journals. Google Scholar may generate excessive search results, but entries provide easy access to full-text journal articles.

Search Google Scholar for Alzheimer's disease and hyperbaric oxygen


HBOEvidence uses computerized tools to appraise the key randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in the hyperbaric medical literature. One may reasonably question the overall strength of HBOT evidence for any disease or condition not covered here.

Read the HBOEvidence appraisals for treatment of cognitive impairment of the elderly with hyperbaric oxygen therapy

US National Library of Medicine
National Institutes of Health

PubMed keeps the official list of scientific papers published in reputable peer-reviewed medical journals. One may reasonably question the importance and legitimacy of any study not listed here.

Related Terms

  • Aging
  • Amyloid-β protein
  • Amyloid plaques
  • Brain
  • Cognitive functioning
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Functional impairments
  • Memory
  • Nerves
  • Neurofibrillary tangles
  • Neurologic
  • Neurons
  • Tau protein
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)


News About Alzheimer's Disease and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Alzheimer's News: Researchers Discover Protective Mutation That Slows Beta Amyloid Buildup

Wednesday, 7/11

Gina Kolata in the New York Times serves up a fine explanation of an important new Alzheimer's study. The study was published today in Nature [doi:10.1038/nature11283] and conducted by a predominantly Scandinavian group read more...

Freezer Malfunction at Harvard Tissue Bank a Setback for Autism and Other Brain Research

Thursday, 6/14

A freezer and alarm failure, causing severe damage to one-third of the frozen brain tissue specimens stored at one Harvard Brain Bank center at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, a collection owned by Autism Speaks, is read more...

More news from O2.0 – the HyperbaricLink blog

Complete Alzheimer's disease archive from O2.0 — the HyperbaricLink blog

Further Reading

HyperbaricLink suggests the Alzheimer’s Disease Fact Sheet from the Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center.

NIH Publication 11-6423, September 2012

National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer's Information, General Information. Retrieved 02 May 2015.
Alzheimer's Association, What Is Alzheimer's. Retrieved 02 May 2015.
Page Data
Updated: 02 May 2015 12:00 AM
Created: 04 Sep 2011 04:12 PM
By: About the authors »