Self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (scuba) diving has grown in popularity, with nearly 9 million sport divers in the United States alone. Approximately 7% of the population has been diagnosed with asthma, which is similar to the percentage of divers admitting they have asthma. Numerous concerns exist regarding subjects with asthma who choose to participate in recreational diving. Among these concerns are pulmonary barotrauma, pneumomediastinum, pneumothorax, arterial gas embolism, ear barotrauma, sinus barotrauma, and dental barotrauma. Despite these concerns, a paucity of information exists linking asthma to increased risk of diving complications. However, it has long been the norm to discourage individuals with asthma from participating in recreational scuba diving. This article examines the currently available literature to allow for a more informed decision regarding the possible risks associated with diving and asthma. It examines the underlying physiological principles associated with diving, including Henry's law and Boyle's law, to provide a more intimate understanding on physiological changes occurring in the respiratory system under compressive stress. Finally, this article offers a framework for guiding the patient with asthma who is interested in scuba diving. Under the right circumstances, the patient with asthma can safely participate in recreational diving without apparent increased risk of an asthma-related event.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Immunology and Allergy