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Diving Medicine- General Medicine/ Check Up

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What Is Diving Medicine?

The study of underwater and high-pressure environments, the consequences of immersion, injuries to marine life, and diving-related problems is known as diving or undersea medicine. Diving medicine provides specialty care for decompression illness and other diving complications. It also focuses on how the diver's fitness to dive affects a diver's safety. Dive medicine or hyperbaric medicine is usually considered a subspecialty.

The study of diving, the prevention of diving illnesses, the treatment of diving accidents, and diving fitness are all topics covered by diving medicine. The discipline also examines the connection between a diver's physical and mental well-being and safety, as well as the impact of breathing gases and their pollutants at high pressure on the human body.

Who Are Dive Physicians?

Physicians who recognize and treat diving medical issues and emergencies are diving physicians, dive physicians, or hyperbaric medicine experts or consultants. These diving medical practitioners are competent in examining divers and potential divers to determine fitness to dive.
The physicians have completed either a subspecialty of dive or hyperbaric medicine or a related continuing medical education course in dive medicine and hyperbaric medicine.

Military-trained diving medical officers who have completed board certification in undersea and hyperbaric medicine or an accredited hyperbaric fellowship can also evaluate symptoms and issues related to diving.

When To Seek Help From Diving Medicine Experts?

You will require a physical before beginning or returning to recreational scuba diving. You may also want to be medically cleared for diving (for example, a fitness-to-dive physical), or you may seek evaluation of a possible dive-related injury.

Suppose you have a chronic or acute health issue or have a health question that you think may affect your ability to dive safely. In that case, you are advised to discuss this with a diving medicine expert who will be able to provide you with the most professional medical advice.

What Does Dive Medicine Encompass?

Diving medicine includes:
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) authorized exams and required surveillance testing related to commercial diving
  • Clearance to resume diving after an injury
  • Emergency care
  • Clearance for recreational diving classes
  • Consultation and treatment after diving accidents
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT)

What Are Disorders Included In Dive Medicine?

Divers are more susceptible to several health issues due to spending more significant periods submerged in the undersea environment. The diving disorders are brought on by inhaling gas at the high pressures found at depth.

The principal conditions are nitrogen narcosis, decompression illness (including decompression sickness and arterial gas embolism), high-pressure nervous syndrome, pulmonary barotrauma (burst lung), and oxygen toxicity.

Nitrogen Narcosis

Nitrogen Narcosis, also known as inert gas narcosis narks, the martini effect, or the rapture of the deep, is a condition that affects deep-sea divers.

Oxygen tanks are used by deep-sea divers to aid with their underwater breathing. These tanks typically have a mixture of gasses, including nitrogen, oxygen, and others. The increasing pressure can change these gasses once divers have submerged themselves more than 100 feet. When inhaled, the changed gasses can cause peculiar symptoms that frequently give the impression that a person is intoxicated.

Symptoms of nitrogen narcosis are:

  • Feeling dizzy or uncomfortable from excessive intoxication. 
  • Loss of short-term memory.
  • Bad judgment.
  • A feeling of euphoria.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Diminished muscle and nerve function.
  • Disorientation.
  • Focusing excessively on one thing.

Even though nitrogen narcosis is a transient condition, it can adversely affect your health. Severe cases can lead to coma or even death. Work with your diving medicine doctor and an experienced diving instructor to avoid nitrogen narcosis or to find other options for your next dive.

Decompression Sickness

Decompression sickness results when gas that has been inhaled at high pressure and dissolved into the body tissues develops bubbles as the pressure is decreased on the ascent after a dive. The effects might range from joint discomfort where the bubbles form to artery blockage that causes nerve damage, paralysis, or even death.

Although bubbles can occur everywhere on the body, the shoulders, elbows, knees, and ankles are where decompression sickness is most usually noticed.

Common symptoms may include:

  • Weakness.
  • Fatigue.
  • Pain In Muscles And Joints.
  • Lightheadedness Or Dizziness.
  • Headache.
  • Stomach Pain.
  • Vision Problems, Such As Double Vision.
  • Confusion.
  • Chest Pain Or Coughing.
  • Vertigo.
  • Shock.

In some cases, you may also experience the following:

  • Unconsciousness.
  • A change in gait when walking
  • Dizziness.

Symptoms of decompression sickness are a medical emergency, and you should seek emergency medical services immediately.

Arterial Gas Embolism

Bubbles block blood flow to organs in an artery like an arterial gas embolism. Like scuba divers, underwater divers that breathe compressed air are particularly susceptible to it.

Symptoms typically start to show up after reaching the surface. An arterial gas embolism to the brain can cause confusion, partial paralysis, or loss of sensation and frequently resembles a stroke. In addition, some people experience seizures or an abrupt loss of consciousness. Shock and death are potential outcomes of severe arterial gas embolism.

An arterial air embolism may happen to a diver if they:

  • Spend too much time submerged underwater.
  • Ascend to the surface too quickly
  • Hold their breath while rising to the surface

High-Pressure Nervous Syndrome

A high-pressure nervous syndrome is a physiological and neurological diving disorder that can result when a diver descends below about 150 m or 500 feet using a breathing gas containing helium. The speed of descent, depth, and helium content all impact the symptoms felt and how severe those effects are.

Symptoms include:

  • Myoclonic jerking.
  • Tremors. 
  • Sleepiness.
  • Electroencephalogram or EEG changes.
  • Nausea.
  • Visual disturbance.
  • Decreased mental performance.
  • Dizziness.

Oxygen Toxicity

Although oxygen is necessary for life, it becomes toxic at higher concentrations, defeating the body's natural defenses and leading to cell death throughout the body. In addition, high partial pressures of oxygen, like those found during diving, have a particularly negative impact on the lungs and brain.

Signs and symptoms of oxygen toxicity include:

  • Vertigo.
  • Nausea.
  • Confusion.
  • Lip and arms twitching.
  • Seizures.
  • Fainting.
  • Tingling sensation.
  • Loss of memory.
  • Excessive sleepiness.
  • Vomiting.
  • Euphoria.
  • Drowsiness.
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