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NHS treatment, decompression sickness symptoms, Poole and Reading

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Side effects

Side effects of HBO tend to be minimal. One possible minor complication is barotrauma to the ears and sinuses caused by pressure changes. Patients are taught auto-inflationary techniques to promote adequate "clearing" of the ears during treatment.

While decongestants may be helpful, this problem is temporary and resolves when HBO treatment is completed. On the rare occasion where a patient is consistently unable to clear his or her ears, the insertion of grommets may be necessary before continuing treatment. This is uncommon.

The other complication which may potentially occur is oxygen toxicity. This is capable of affecting the C.N.S. or lungs. CNS oxygen toxicity can result in seizures. These are epileptiform in nature, short lived and result in no long term sequelae. The incidence is in the region of one in 10,000 treatments. There are no records in the literature of permanent harm.

Pulmonary oxygen toxicity can only occur in patients who require supplemental oxygen between treatments. In these cases, careful attention to dosage and treatment duration minimises this effect.

Diabetic patients may require a slight reduction in insulin dosage during the course of treatment.

Finally, one in five patients may notice a slight refractory change. This has to do with lens metabolism. The change is a slight myopia, which resolves spontaneously in all cases, in 8 weeks.

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