What Is Ozone Therapy?

Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT on July 6, 2017Written by Carrie Madormo, RN, MPH on July 6, 2017

Overview

Ozone therapy refers to the process of administering ozone gas into your body to treat a disease or wound. Ozone is a colorless gas made up of three atoms of oxygen (O3). It can be used to treat medical conditions by stimulating the immune system. It can also be used to disinfect and treat disease. In the hospital, ozone therapy gas is made from medical-grade oxygen sources.

How it works

Ozone therapy works by disrupting unhealthy processes in the body. It can help stop the growth of bacteria that are harmful. For example, if you have an infection in your body, ozone therapy could stop it from spreading. Research has shown ozone therapy to be effective at treating infections from:

  • bacteria
  • viruses
  • fungi
  • yeast
  • protozoa

Ozone therapy also helps flush out infected cells. Once the body rids itself of these infected cells, it produces new, healthy ones.

What it helps treat

Ozone therapy is used for a variety of conditions.

Breathing disorders

People with any type of breathing disorder may be good candidates for ozone therapy. By providing more oxygen to your blood, ozone therapy can help reduce the stress on your lungs. Your lungs are responsible for supplying oxygen to your blood.

Clinical trials for people with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are currently in progress.

Diabetes

Ozone therapy is also showing promise in reducing the risk of complications from diabetes. Complications are usually caused by oxidative stress in the body. If ozone therapy can bring new, fresh oxygen to the blood and tissues, people with diabetes could have much better outcomes.

People with diabetes also experience poor wound healing. According to one study, ozone therapy could be helpful for repairing skin and tissue.

Immune disorders

Ozone therapy may have benefits for people with immune disorders because it can help stimulate the immune system. An older in-vitro study from 1991 found evidence that ozone therapy could completely inactivate the HIV virus. A follow-up study did not find ozone therapy to offer any therapeutic value to people with HIV, however. More research is needed on the use of ozone therapy for the treatment of HIV.

How to prepare for ozone therapy

Talk with your doctor or healthcare provider about the best way to prepare for your treatment. A healthcare professional may provide ozone therapy by drawing blood from your body, then mixing it with ozone gas and replacing it.

If the ozone therapy will be administered with your blood, prepare for your blood draw by getting plenty of sleep the night before and eating a healthy breakfast that day. Also make sure to stay hydrated with plenty of water.

What happens during treatment

There are many different ways to receive ozone therapy, and your provider will discuss the best options for you and your treatment. It may be given in three ways:

Directly to the tissue: If you undergo ozone therapy for an extremity problem or wound, the ozone gas will most likely be applied directly to the tissue of the affected body part. The gas is administered in a protective covering.

Intravenously: To treat internal disorders, such as HIV, the ozone gas is usually dissolved into blood that was taken from you. Then, the blood with the dissolved gas is injected back into you through an IV.

Intramuscularly: Ozone therapy is also available as an intramuscular injection. For this injection, the ozone gas is mixed with your blood or sterile water before administration.

Effectiveness

Research for ozone therapy shows mixed results, though many results are promising. Several ozone therapy clinical trials are in progress for everything from HIV to arthritis.

One clinical trial has recently found a new ozone therapy drug to be effective at helping people with COPD and cystic fibrosis. Ozone therapy is also currently being studied in people with arthritis of the knee and other inflammatory diseases, but results are not yet available. People with back pain from herniated discs may also benefit from ozone therapy.

Side effects

Ozone therapy is not widely used at this time, and there are risks. Ozone gas has an odd number of atoms, which makes it unstable. This instability means it can be unpredictable.

Medical providers take extreme caution when using ozone therapy. Being exposed to high concentrations of oxygen can damage red blood cells, so the measurements must be precise.

Talk with your doctor about all of the possible risks, and weigh them against the potential benefits of the treatment. You should also discuss other treatment options with your doctor to help determine the best treatment plan for your condition.

Costs and coverage

It can be difficult to estimate a cost of ozone therapy because the treatments are individualized based on your medical condition and the duration of your treatment. Insurance companies usually don’t cover ozone therapy, and it’s not covered by Medicaid.

Outlook

New clinical trials for ozone therapy uses are in the works. In a recent study, scientists used ozone therapy in mice with nerve damage and found that it decreased their pain behaviors. A 2009 study also found it to be effective at fighting new types of bacteria.

Ozone therapy is promising and research is ongoing. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about this treatment and whether it’s right for you.

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