Although hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a non-invasive procedure, precautions still have to be taken to ensure HBOT patients remain safe during the process. At RegenQuest, we take safety seriously, which is why we make sure our patients don’t experience a significant or dangerous drop in blood sugar levels or become hypoglycemic during oxygen therapy.
What is Hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycemia occurs when there is not enough glucose, or sugar, in the body. When you eat, your body breaks down food (primarily carbohydrates) into sugar molecules. This is why blood glucose levels spike after a large meal or a sugary snack.
Glucose is the body’s main source of energy, but without the hormone insulin glucose can’t move from your blood and into your cells and tissues. With the right amount of insulin, glucose is able to migrate out of your blood and into your cells, providing them with the energy needed to heal wounds or recover from exercise.
Hyperglycemia can occur when the body produces too much insulin. Hypoglycemia also occurs in patients who have not eaten, have exercised recently, or have taken too much of their insulin medication.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia include pale skin, fatigue, hunger, irritability and shakiness. At the extreme end of the spectrum, hypoglycemia can cause confusion, seizures, and loss of consciousness.
Hypoglycemia and HBOT
Any form of treatment that involves patients with fluctuating glucose levels or insulin sensitivity should be approached with care and caution, including hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
During HBOT sessions, the patient’s blood is supersaturated with oxygen. Oxygen is a requirement for converting glucose into ATP, the chemical energy that drives a cell. When cells that were previously starved of oxygen suddenly have a high concentration of oxygen, it can drive cellular respiration (the production of energy). As a result, HBOT treatments can increase glucose consumption, which in turn decreases blood sugar levels. In certain incidences, blood sugar levels drop to the point of hypoglycemia.
When Hypoglycemia Prevents HBOT From Happening
According to The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, patients with a blood glucose level 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or less are likely to experience symptoms of hypoglycemia. Although this number is different for everyone, it serves as a good baseline for administrators of hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
Someone who presents with a blood glucose level of 80mg/dL should not be allowed to undergo oxygen therapy, even though their sugar levels are acceptable. This is because HBOT can reduce blood glucose levels. If someone with blood sugar levels just above the accepted baseline undergoes HBOT treatment, they will likely become hypoglycemic during the two-hour therapy session.
Hypoglycemia puts the body under unnecessary stress. At RegenQuest, we want our HBOT patients to benefit from oxygen therapy; we don’t want you to come out of a session feeling worse for wear. If you are experiencing symptoms of hypoglycemia, we will manage your sugar before you receive the treatment to avoid any issues with hypoglycaemia.
How To Prevent Hypoglycemia Before HBOT Treatments
For some people with chronic insulin sensitivity preventing hypoglycemia is a difficult task. However, there are steps that can be taken before hyperbaric oxygen treatments to help mitigate any problem with blood sugar levels.
Don’t Do Heavy Exercise Before Treatment
Light exercise is acceptable, but unusual or extreme exercise before sessions is not advised as it can cause low blood sugar.
Make sure to eat a decent meal before your HBOT session. We don’t advise a small, sugary snack as this can spike glucose levels for a short period of time, and subsequently result in a patient ‘crashing’.
Talk To A Medical Professional
When it comes to medical procedures, honesty is the best policy. Make sure to tell your RegenQuest HBOT administrators if you feel any symptoms of hypoglycemia at any point before, during or after treatment.
At RegenQuest, we are committed to providing our patients with the best care possible. Proper nutrition and nutritional education play an important role in wound care and the success of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which is why our trained medical professionals are just a phone call away, ready to help you become the healthiest you can be.