Does Scuba Diving Cause These 7 Injuries or Illnesses?
Scuba diving can cause Injuries and Illnesses such as ear infections from prolonged exposure underwater, vertigo from disorientation, and nosebleeds if you skip equalization.
I’m not here to scare you, but there are a few things that Scuba Diving can cause, particularly if you have any underlying medical conditions.
The most common diving-related injuries are Barotrauma and Decompression Sickness, however, you may also experience some of the following 7 Injuries such as blood clots, vertigo, and nose bleeds while scuba diving.
To address any worries you may have, we will be covering these 7 Injuries and Illnesses in today’s article:
- Can Scuba Diving Cause Nosebleeds?
- Can Scuba Diving Cause Blood Clots?
- Can Scuba Diving Cause Ear Infections?
- Can Scuba Diving Cause Hearing Loss?
- Can Scuba Diving Cause Diarrhoea?
- Can Scuba Diving Cause Vertigo?
- Can Scuba Diving Cause A Stroke?
Can Scuba Diving Cause Nosebleeds?
A nosebleed while scuba diving is either caused by delayed equalization or a sinus squeeze.
I remember my first nosebleed while scuba diving. It was in England and I had just completed my Open Water Course. I was so excited as a newbie diver that I forgot to equalize, and bam, I got a small nosebleed.
When you become overwhelmed underwater, it is easy to forget to equalize, especially if a turtle just casually glides by during your descent.
Or, maybe you are trying to keep up with your group during the first few metres and forget to equalize, so you blow hard, over-equalizing to compensate for the pain in your ears.
If you have got down to 8 m and have not equalized, and you force an equalization, you may end up rupturing your precious inner lining and capillaries inside your septum and sinus, resulting in a nosebleed.
But, wait, there’s more…
If you are prone to getting nosebleeds on land or have a history of nosebleeds, let your dive instructor, guide, or buddy know.
The second reason scuba diving may cause a nosebleed is from a sinus squeeze. If you have never had one, count yourself lucky, because, trust me, they are not fun!
A sinus squeeze happens when mucus blocks your sinus, so if you are scuba diving with a cold, try to blow your nose on land.
If you are unable to equalize…you guessed it! It is best to sit this one out.
This is what can happen if you scuba dive with a cold…
As pressure increases during your descent, your sinus cavities will be unable to equalize the outside pressure, causing your blood vessels to swell and rupture, giving you a nosebleed.
The same can happen during your ascent as the sinus blood vessels are sucked outward. This is called a reverse sinus squeeze, which can also result in a bloody nose.
Can Scuba Diving Cause Blood Clots?
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when you form a blood clot (thrombus). There is no evidence that Scuba Diving causes blood clots, however, if you take blood thinners you should not go Scuba Diving. Why? Read on to find out more!
Blood clots or DVT are not directly related to scuba diving, however, if you are scuba diving after sitting on a long flight, then the risk of getting a blood clot is increased.
Now, this is important…
If you are taking blood thinners, you shouldn’t go scuba diving. I am not telling you this to ruin your day, but to potentially save your life.
Diving involves physical exercise, and if you experience trauma underwater, the chances of you getting a massive bleed while scuba diving is significantly increased on blood thinners.
Although the chances of this are very low, decompression sickness often involves bleeding, particularly on your spinal cord. If you were to take blood thinners, and you get a bleed on your spine, the bleeding would be much worse, and the outcome could be life-threatening.
So, what does that mean for diving enthusiasts that develop DVT?
Well, I’m no expert, so I asked the Divers Alert Network (DAN), one of the world’s leading dive insurance companies.
Here’s what they said:
“If you develop DVT, you should not dive during the acute phase of the condition or while you are taking anticoagulants. You may return to diving after DVT, but you should not do so before consulting a physician trained in dive medicine.”
Can Scuba Diving Cause Ear Infections?
Because of the different environments that we dive in, Scuba Diving can cause ear infections. During Diving, you experience prolonged exposure to wet conditions and environmental changes that enter the ear canal. This allows bacteria and fungi to grow into pathogens, causing ear infections, commonly known as swimmer’s ear.
A diver’s worst nightmare is a good ol’ ear infection, also known as swimmer’s ear, or “otitis externa” for the science nerds out there.
At some point in your scuba diving journey, you are very likely to experience an ear infection. This is because we dive in environments where little creatures wander, and most of the time, we do not properly care for our ears after the dive.
Scuba diving can cause an ear infection if you dive with a cold (naughty you!), or if you have experienced equalizing pressure during a flight.
Most of the time, ear infections do not magically appear. There are culprits for this annoyance to sit out a dive, and these bad boys are called germs.
When germs (bacteria and fungi) reach your Eustachian tube, they affect the mucous membrane in your middle ear. After prolonged exposure to potentially germ-ridden bacteria and fungi, you are five times more likely to develop an ear infection when scuba diving.
So, my best tip for preventing an ear infection after scuba diving is to get yourself a headband to cover your ears on the boat, or a lightweight beanie hat!
When you get back from the dive, have a shower and rinse your ears out with freshwater!
You can thank me later!
Can Scuba Diving Cause Hearing Loss?
As scuba diving puts your inner ear at risk, if you suffer from inner ear barotrauma or inner ear decompression sickness, it can cause vertigo, tinnitus, and in worse cases, hearing loss.
You may have already experienced temporary hearing loss while scuba diving when fluid enters your ear. When water enters your middle ear it prevents the normal vibrations in your eardrums, this is called ‘conductive’ hearing loss.
This is usually nothing to worry about, as the sensory organ inside your ear (the cochlea) and the nerves to the brain still function. However, if things were to go sideways, then it would result in permanent (‘sensorineural’) hearing loss.
Studies have shown that, statistically, scuba diving does not cause hearing loss:
“The largest source of hearing loss in divers is in fact noise, and there is also an interesting correlation between hearing loss and divers who smoke.” This is one of the many reasons you should quit smoking if you are a scuba diver!
I know that’s a lot to take in, but bear with me now…
Inner ear problems caused by scuba diving are very rare, but if one happens, it can cause permanent hearing loss. Two serious injuries can be caused by scuba diving:
- Inner ear decompression sickness (IEDCS)
- Inner ear barotrauma (IEBT)
Both of these injuries need immediate medical attention, and in some cases, surgery may be needed to prevent hearing loss.
Can Scuba Diving Cause Diarrhoea?
Scuba diving itself does not cause diarrhoea, however, it is common when diving in tropical locations because of contact with e.coli or simply eating unfamiliar foods.
Diarrhoea is another culprit that can ruin an otherwise perfectly planned dive trip! There is nothing worse than farting in your wetsuit, only to find out it was more than a fart…
Gastroenteritis, stomach flu, or diarrhoea is quite common, and I am sure you have already experienced that bubbling sensation inside your stomach, and the need to rush to the loo!
If you suffer from diarrhoea while on a dive trip, do not soldier your way through. To ease your upset tummy, take loperamide (Imodium) or another anti-sickness medication to help with nausea and vomiting, and to relieve the urge to go to the toilet.
When travelling, remember to wash your hands thoroughly before eating, drink only filtered or bottled water, eat well-cooked foods, and skip the spicy food if you are not used to it.
Remember to keep on top of your fluids! Fluid loss from diarrhoea can increase your susceptibility to DCS.
But, what happens if it comes out the other end, and you need to vomit while scuba diving?
The number one rule is to keep your regulator in your mouth at all times to avoid drowning. If needed, use your hand to hold it in place.
Do not worry, your vomit will be forced out of your regulator the same way your exhaled breath is. No vomit will go into your air supply and when your vomit leaves your regulator you will have some new underwater friends!
Can Scuba Diving Cause Vertigo?
Scuba diving can cause a disproportionate and unequal vestibular response to a motion, so to put it more simply, yes, scuba diving can cause vertigo, and even fainting.
Have you ever walked off an elevator and felt the surroundings were moving when there was no actual movement? That is vertigo, and it can also happen to you underwater.
If you ever experience vertigo when scuba diving, it can be scary.
The feeling of tilting and dizziness is often accompanied by the feeling of fainting. This is all down to an imbalance in pressures between your ears either on your descent, but it is more common during your ascent.
If you have surfaced, and you are experiencing persistent vertigo and vomiting, it could be anything from IEDCS, IEBT, or even a stroke. If you feel any of these straight after diving, scuba diving is the likely cause.
Experts from DAN have said that if vertigo were to happen 10 minutes after surfacing, it would indicate DCS rather than barotrauma, however, you should also consider the latter.
If you ever experience vertigo from Scuba Diving, skip the second dive, speak to a doctor and report your diving incident to your insurance company straight away – I had a friend that continued to dive after experiencing vertigo, they put the whole dive group at risk.
I know you do not want to miss that dive, but it is better to be safe than sorry!
Can Scuba Diving Cause A Stroke?
Scuba Diving itself does not cause a stroke, however, if air bubbles were to reach your brain and blood vessels, it can cause stroke-like events.
A stroke or heart attack underwater may be fatal, but diving itself does not cause a stroke. However, if you have had a stroke in the past, it can be dangerous for you to go scuba diving because of the medications during and after recovery.
This is because vigorous exercise, lifting heavy scuba diving equipment, and forceful equalizing can all increase the chances of having a stroke.
The confusion that Scuba Diving can cause a stroke is from divers who experience air or gas embolisms in the arteries that lead to the brain.
This causes immediate loss of consciousness where divers may have a seizure, fit, or a stroke underwater.
The bottom line is…
Whether you can go scuba diving after a stroke or not will require a case-by-case decision from your physician and neurologist.
Don’t Forget Your Dive Insurance!
Before you go out on any dive trip or holiday, it is essential to make sure you have insurance that covers you if something goes wrong. Check out our dive insurance article for more information.
Or go straight to these dive insurance company websites:
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This article is not to scaremonger you, but to educate you on the medical issues scuba diving can cause, especially if you have any underlying medical conditions, which is why filling in a medical form before every dive is super important!
If you ever experience any of the above issues during or after scuba diving, skip the next dive, speak to your dive insurance company and get looked at by a medical physician.
I hope to see you soon, happy bubbles!
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