Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Resume diving, Type II diabetic scuba instructor?

Here is a question presented to us about an older diabetic scuba instructor resuming diving.

Dear Sir,

I used to be a PADI scuba Instructor in 1978 in Papua New Guinea. I have not been diving since then. Recently my son has bought me a scuba diving course and would like me to do the course with him. I am 68 years old and I guess reasonably fir, but I have type 2 diabetes. What are the risks involved for a person of my age with non insulin diabetes? Your advise would be very much appreciated.

Answer from scubadoc.

One would suppose that your answer lies in the degree of control of your diabetes that you manage. You don't mention several things that are important: the HgbA1c level, the medications that you take and whether or not you have any degree of coronary artery disease.

If your HgbA1c is within normal limits and you are personally OK with your medication and diet regimen - then there would be little in the way of risk as concerns your blood sugar levels dropping during a dive. Most diabetics who dive carry along some glucose replacement in case of hypoglycemic need at depth.

Other factors that are of concern would be your level of physical fitness and whether or not you have any degree of target organ damage such as renal, eye, brain or heart disease secondary to the diabetes. Peripheral neuropathy would preclude you diving as it would mask decompression sickness.

This might be good in that it might cause you to start an exercise program and get medical evaluation that you have been putting off. Get a good physical exam including an exercise stress test before you do anything.

Before taking the course ask yourself if, as an instructor, you would give someone other than yourself lessons. If the answer is yes, after the above considerations - then by all means go diving. Also, see our web page about diabetes and diving.

Hope this is helpful!

Ernie Campbell, MD
Scubadoc's Diving Medicine online

More about diabetes and diving here:

1. Diabetes
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2. Endocrine problems
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4. Endocrine problems
DOWNLOAD THIS PAGE Index Diabetes and Diving The Thyroid and Diving ... problems settings. The Diabetes and Diving Committee of the ... of the American Diabetes Association notes that there