An increasing number of patients with controlled diabetes, asthma andother diseases are getting the green light for an activity that wasonce off limits: scuba diving.
According toresearchers at the Dive Medicine Symposium at Rutgers University, there is little evidence to suggest that having asthma or diabetesshould preclude a person from practising scuba.
“There’s not a lot of strong data to suggest that diabetics areat increased risk” of potentially serious adverse events, said Dr.Michael Madsen, a fellow in undersea and hyperbaric medicine at theUniversity of Pennsylvania. Likewise for other depth-related illnessessuch as arterial-gas embolism in the lungs or decompression sickness,also known as “the bends,” he said.
Earlier concerns about diving with diabetes led to bans in the UnitedStates, United Kingdom, and parts of Europe. The bans stayed in placeuntil the mid-1990s — and until 2004 for France.
Dr Madsenhas said the major issue for diabetic divers is the potential for anunderwater hypoglycemic episode that causes unconsciousness. Theseepisodes are usually triggered by increased metabolic demands, sincepatients are “using more energy than usual when they’re diving,” hesaid.
They’re particularly problematic for insulin-dependentdiabetics, because their regular does of the hormone may be too highfor someone undergoing increased activity.
Data from research in 2005 performed by the British Sub Aqua Club, thediving regulatory agency in England, found only one instance ofhypoglycemia among 447 diabetic divers who completed 14,000 registereddives.
And 2004 data from the Diver Alert Network (DAN), the divingregulatory agency in the U.S., found no symptomatic hypoglycemia casesamong 80 divers on over 6,000 dives, although it did record some”fairly large glucose drops.”
On the basis of that data and other studies, the American DiabetesAssociation guidelines recommend that divers remain physically fit andget regular exercise outside of diving.
DAN guidelines recommend an annual physical that includes screening for heart disease if the diver is over age 40.