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What Are the Pros and Cons of Oxygen Therapy for Autism?

Tanks of oxygen for oxygen therapy.
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  • Written By: Amanda R. Bell
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 04 July 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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There are several different pros and cons of oxygen therapy for autism. In some cases and for some patients, it can help to decrease outbursts and improve a patient’s ability to communicate effectively with others. Some have found that these treatments, when done over a long period, can result in permanent improvement of these characteristics. Despite this, oxygen therapy for autism can result in several undesirable side effects, and the benefits of this treatment have yet to be proven as of 2011. For this reason, the treatments are typically not covered by insurance, and can be costly.

Many family members and doctors report an improvement in an autistic individual’s sensitivity to noises, lights, or other daily occurrences that can lead to outbursts following several oxygen treatments. Proponents of oxygen therapy for autism attribute this outcome to the anti-inflammatory effects of oxygen therapy. It is believed that the increase in oxygen reduces inflammation around the areas of the brain that cause this sensitivity, enabling it to improve in function.

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This decrease in inflammation, and an increase in blood flow that is also believed to result from oxygen therapy, can improve an autistic patient’s communication skills. This positive aspect of oxygen therapy for autism is also commonly attributed to the reduction in inflammation and improvement in blood flow that allows certain areas of the brain to function more closely to those of a non-autistic individual. Oftentimes, when a patient is able to communicate his or her needs or feelings more effectively, he or she is also often more capable of reading the social cues of others, a common struggle for those with autism.

While there are several positive aspects to oxygen therapy for autism, it can have some side effects. As many autistic patients are highly sensitive, the close quarters needed for oxygen treatments can prompt the patient to become claustrophobic, adding to his or her daily challenges. The treatment itself can also bruise the eardrums, resulting in pain and sensitivity to noise, and result in increased pressure in the sinuses. In rare cases, oxygen therapy for autism and other diseases can prompt a patient to seize.

Other than these side effects, there is a relatively high possibility that the treatments may not work for a patient. Autism and the characteristics of this disorder vary dramatically by each individual. While oxygen therapy may work extremely well for one individual, it may not work at all for another.

As of 2011, there is only one clinical study that indicates the benefits of oxygen therapy for autism, and, as of yet, it is not an approved treatment for the disorder. For this reason, the vast majority of insurance providers do not offer coverage for it. As full benefits are typically not reached until after a multitude of separate treatments, and each treatment is rather costly for the average person, being able to pay for enough treatments to determine whether oxygen therapy for autism will work for a specific individual can be outside of many people’s budget.

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