Lyme Disease

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Approval Status

No Clearance by US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

No Approval by the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society (UHMS)

! Read the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) position paper on off-label hyperbaric treatment:
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: Don't Be Misled, published 22 August 2013.

About Clearance and Approval


Definition and Causes

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted to humans by blacklegged ticks. It is the most common tick-borne disease in the Northern Hemisphere, with 20,000 cases reported annually. Named after the Connecticut town where a cluster was reported in 1977, Lyme disease was first described in the 1880s.

The anaerobic spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi causes Lyme disease. Early symptoms include rash, fever, chills, fatigue, and aches. In time the disease may affect the joints, heart, brain, and central nervous system, producing a baffling variety of symptoms sometimes mistaken for other diseases, such as viral infections, joint disorders, fibromyalgia and other pain disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, and depression. Other bacterial infections introduced by the offending tick can make diagnosis and treatment even more difficult.

Some patients experience symptoms for several weeks after treatment and a small percentage continue to have fatigue and pain for more than six months. In these cases, public health authorities and most clinical experts eschew the term chronic Lyme disease (CLD). Post-treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS) is the preferred term for previously infected patients whose symptoms persist or progress.

Evidence Index

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

Treatment with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Some physicians prescribe hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) for Lyme disease as an adjunct to antibiotics. As in the treatment of chronic wounds, necrotizing infections, intracranial abscess, osteomyelitis, and gas ganrene, all of which are approved conditions, HBOT may inhibit the growth of anaerobic bacteria by improving blood flow and oxygenating infected tissue.

Some practitioners also claim that hyperbaric oxygen may help manage associated pain and depression, improve mental clarity, and reduce or eliminate the long-term use of antibiotics.

Nevertheless, at present there is no scientific research supporting the use of HBOT in either primary cases of Lyme disease or post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome.

HyperbaricLink Commentary

While there is a plausible basis for thinking hyperbaric oxygen might help in the treatment of a systemic illness caused by a bacteria infection, no clinical studies have been conducted to test this hypothesis in the case of Lyme disease and as of July 2015, none are planned. This is perhaps because antibiotic treatment alone has proven to be effective in treating most cases of Lyme disease.

In cases of post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS) research has shown that long-term use of antibiotics does not improve mental functioning or other symptoms in patients with PTLDS. [ NIAID, 2014 ] There are no published studies of hyperbaric oxygen treatment of PTLDS and extremely few case reports.

Those seeking treatment for Lyme disease or PTLDS should beware of practitioners making bold claims for hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Advertising a specific medical benefit from a treatment that has not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for that purpose is a violation of US federal law. Never pay to participate in a clinical trial.

Patient Resources

HyperbaricLink recommends the following websites for anyone seeking authoritative information, patient advocacy, and community support for Lyme disease.

Lyme Disease
US Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website provides an excellent section on Lyme Disease, including prevention and an illustrated how-to guide for removing a tick. The information also covers Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome and describes the latest research on prolonged treatment with antibiotics.

American Lyme Disease Foundation (ALDF)

The American Lyme Disease Foundation is a non-profit educational organization focused on providing educational resources about prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of tick-borne infections.


You can help advance the scientific research into treatment of Lyme disease by volunteering for a clinical study. provides a list of registered (i.e., legitimate) clinical research studies.



Clinical Resources

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

 Use the search buttons below to go directly to research on hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
US National Institutes of Health 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.


Lyme Disease
US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID)

The NIAID website section on Lyme disease describes research at NIAID labs, clinical studies of chronic Lyme disease funded by the NIAID, research on treatment, and provides other information and links to resources of interest to clinicians.
US National Library of Medicine, US 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.



News About Autism and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

More news from O2.0 – the HyperbaricLink blog

Complete Lyme disease news archive from O2.0 — the HyperbaricLink blog.

Further Learning

HyperbaricLink suggests ‘Not Just Lyme Disease Anymore’: 7 New Reasons To Fear Ticks This Summer, by Carey Goldberg, published 10 July 2015 on CommonHealth, the healthcare blog of the great public radio station WBUR, Boston.

CommonHealth illustration


Related Terms

  • anaplasmosis
  • babesiosis
  • B. miyamotoi
  • Borrelia burgdorferi
  • Chronic Lyme Disease
  • Chronic Lyme Disease Syndrome
  • Deer tick
  • spirochetes


Lyme Disease, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 02 May 2015.
Arthritis Foundation, Lyme Disease. Retrieved 02 May 2015.
Page Data
Updated: 06 Aug 2015 05:13 AM
Created: 28 Sep 2009 12:00 AM
By: About the authors »