June 13, 1999
Exercise and Sports
Question from Los Angeles, California, USA:
My nephew (13) was recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. One of his long time goals is to SCUBA dive. Currently he skin dives with me — but we are hoping to begin SCUBA diving in the next couple of years. Is there any data suggesting that SCUBA diving would not be possible due to diabetes?
Recreational scuba diving in the United States has become extremely popular, even among individuals who have diabetes. The key objective for any individual, including those who have diabetes, is a safe dive where all precautions are taken into consideration. At this point in time there are no firmly established safety guidelines for the recreational scuba diver with diabetes. Individual scuba diving agencies often have their own guidelines for certifying individuals with diabetes. You and your nephew need to understand the potential risks associated with recreational scuba diving and the individual with diabetes. Then make your decision as to; do the risks out weight the benefits.
To be considered for recreational scuba diving, the individual must:
Have well-controlled diabetes
Have a good understanding of diabetes
Receive suitable training
Follow a specially designed management protocol.
The individual with diabetes who is interested in recreational scuba diving must learn the chronic and acute physiological effects associated with diving (pulmonary barotrauma, decompression sickness, inert gas narcosis) as well as the physiological effects that can occur in the individual with diabetes (hypoglycemia, the possible relationship between diabetes complications and diving physiology including pressure, circulation and respiratory difficulties) and adequate training to anticipate and treat diabetes related problems during diving.
We wish your nephew good luck in his adventure. If he is truly interested in pursuing recreational scuba diving I commend you and him. Here are some resources that may be helpful to both of you:
Divers Alert Network
Duke University Medical Center
Durham, N.C. 2771O
(Ongoing research in the area of the incidence of hypoglycemia and diving)
Undersea Hyperbaric Medical Society
9650 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20814
The Diabetes Association of the Virgin Islands
P.O. Box 5511
St. Thomas, VI 00803-5511
See also Diving with Diabetes.