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Question:

From Sebring, Florida, USA:

Can a person, 37 year old female, Type 2 diabetes, oral medication, become certified to SCUBA dive? No major complications, good health.

Answer:

All divers need certification by a reputable agency. Certification includes training in diving physiology, gas kinetics, safety and rescue. People with diabetes must learn how exercise affects blood glucose levels and the need for carbohydrate intake and insulin adjustment.

More research and guidelines need to be established for safety and medical screening of recreational scuba divers with diabetes. The scuba diving committee of the American Diabetes Association Council on Exercise and representatives of the Undersea Hyperbaric Medical Society have come to the following initial conclusions:

  1. A significant number of individuals with diabetes treated with insulin or oral hypoglycemic agents are scuba diving.

  2. There is evidence that individuals treated with insulin or oral hypoglycemic agents are at increased risk while scuba diving, from hypoglycemia.

  3. Individuals with diabetes treated with insulin or oral hypoglycemic agents should consider that others, including companions, instructors, and families, share this risk.

  4. There are insufficient data to justify a blanket proscription against scuba diving for individuals with diabetes.

The current recommendations of this committee state that divers who are in control of their blood glucose levels, understand the disease and its associated episodes of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia, and are free of secondary complications, may participate in scuba diving. To be a safe diver with diabetes, the committee recommends following blood glucose management procedures and knowing that diving safely with diabetes depends upon understanding how to prevent underwater hypoglycemia.

Excluded from diving in these guidelines are:

  1. Those individuals with diabetes who have a history of episodes of severe hypoglycemia (i.e. loss of consciousness, seizures, or requiring the assistance of others) within the last 12 months before diving.

  2. Those individuals with advanced secondary complications (i.e. proliferative retinopathy, neuropathy, or coronary artery disease).

  3. Those individuals with hypoglycemic unawareness (lacking adrenergic symptoms of mild hypoglycemia).

  4. Those individuals who do not have adequately controlled diabetes (as determined by their physician) or who do not have a good understanding of the relationship between diabetes and exercise.

To put all of this information into a nutshell: To be considered for recreational scuba diving, individuals with diabetes must:

  1. Have Well-Controlled Diabetes
  2. Have a Good Understanding of their Disease
  3. Receive Suitable Training and
  4. Follow a Specially Designed Management Protocol

I hope this gives you some insight as to what the guidelines are for the individual with diabetes who wants to engage in the sport of scuba diving.

PL

Original posting 15 Aug 1998
Posted to Exercise and Sports

  
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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:08:58
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