Epilepsy and Diving
Any form of
unconsciousness under water is deadly, with
the attendant likelihood of arterial gas embolism and drowning.
even if well-controlled, places you at great risk and one should not
consider the possibility of diving. Some years ago I worked with Dr.
Davis in writing "The Medical Examination of Sport Scuba Divers,"
guidelines for those with illnesses such as asthmatics, diabetics and
The group of doctors making those guidelines felt that all of these
could cause some form of unconsciousness, even though controlled nicely
on the surface.
surface at depth would be deadly
and there is no such thing as a " little seizure or spaciness" which
be tolerated, even if the person is "well-controlled on medication."
is a clear medical risk involved and you should direct your energies
intelligence toward surface related activities. Be sure that you are
by a doctor that is "diving aware" of the extreme dangers involved
you make any decision. The difficulty comes with the assessment of the
range of severity of these disorders and the nature and effectiveness
the controlling measures.
people don't feel that any one with
seizure activity of any kind should be certified as 'fit to dive'. The
risks of having sudden seizure activity underwater are just too great.
The regulator falls out of the mouth, there is a sudden intake of water
into the lungs and the diver drowns. Compounding this is the fact that
the diver then has to ascend in the water column - subjecting him/her
pulmonary barotrauma and gas embolism. (Bove, 'Diving Medicine',
'Diving and Subaquatic Medicine'). In addition, one has to consider the
increased risk placed on the diver's buddy and other divers in the
required to rescue the individual.
has to be considered is the nature
of the drugs used to control epilepsy, which are all, to some degree,
in nature and would thus exacerbate nitrogen narcosis or cause it to
on at an unexpectedly shallow depth. For this reason, there are some
feel that it is considered unsafe for any epileptic to dive if he/she
currently taking any anti-epileptic medication.
hyperbaric conditions (chamber dive
or a 60 foot water dive) can cause a low percentage of seizures in
who do not have epilepsy (1% in Navy studies). However, the effect of
partial pressures of oxygen on the person with controlled epilepsy is
who have been
seizure free for five years, on
no medication who choose to dive should be advised in regard to the
risk that hyperventilation and oxygen toxicity might precipitate
epilepsy, taking medication
and seizure free for 2 years (meeting the requirements of most driving
jurisdictions) are advised that if they ignore the recommendation not
dive - they have to accept the increased accident risk which is
to be 1.3 to 2 times that of the general population. As previously
this risk is also shared by diving companions, instructors,
parents and all who are directly involved.
interesting that these same people who
are allowed to 'drive' are not allowed to have a pilots license - nor
they allowed to perform commercial, scientific or military diving.
FE, 1985 Epileptics and scuba diving
JAMA 253(13), 1877-1878 (1985)
[Letter. No Content]
authors listed], 1985 Should epileptics scuba dive?
JAMA 254(22), 3182-3183 (1985)
Newton HB. Neurologic complications of scuba diving. Am Fam Physician.
Hamad A, Alghadban A, Ward L. Seizure in a scuba diver. Chest.