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## Can Someone with COPD Go Scuba Diving?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive lung disease that makes it difficult to breathe. It is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. COPD can be caused by a number of factors, including smoking, exposure to secondhand smoke, air pollution, and occupational dusts and fumes.

People with COPD have difficulty breathing because their airways are narrowed and their lungs are damaged. This can make it difficult to get enough oxygen into the bloodstream, which can lead to a number of problems, including:

* Shortness of breath
* Wheezing
* Coughing
* Chest tightness
* Fatigue
* Weight loss
* Loss of appetite

## Can Someone with COPD Go Scuba Diving?

The answer to this question is not a simple yes or no. It depends on a number of factors, including the severity of the COPD, the person’s overall health, and the type of scuba diving planned.

In general, people with mild COPD can safely scuba dive if they are properly monitored and take precautions to prevent problems. However, people with moderate to severe COPD should not scuba dive.

### Risks of Scuba Diving for People with COPD

There are a number of risks associated with scuba diving for people with COPD, including:

* **Hypoxia:** This is a condition in which the body does not get enough oxygen. Hypoxia can cause a number of symptoms, including shortness of breath, confusion, and loss of consciousness.
* **Barotrauma:** This is a condition in which the pressure inside the body changes too quickly, causing damage to the ears, sinuses, or lungs. Barotrauma can be caused by ascending or descending too quickly while scuba diving.
* **Decompression sickness:** This is a condition in which nitrogen bubbles form in the body’s tissues. Decompression sickness can cause a number of symptoms, including pain, numbness, and paralysis.
* **Drowning:** This is a risk for all scuba divers, but it is especially dangerous for people with COPD.

## Precautions for People with COPD Who Want to Scuba Dive

If you have COPD and you want to scuba dive, it is important to take the following precautions:

* **Get a medical evaluation from a doctor who is experienced in diving medicine.** The doctor will assess your COPD and determine if you are healthy enough to scuba dive.
* **Take your medications as directed.** Your medications can help to control your COPD and reduce your risk of problems while scuba diving.
* **Use a dive computer.** A dive computer can help you to monitor your depth and ascent rate, which can help to prevent barotrauma and decompression sickness.
* **Dive with a buddy.** A buddy can help you to monitor your condition and assist you if you have any problems.
* **Stay close to the surface.** The deeper you dive, the greater the pressure on your lungs. This can make it more difficult to breathe and increase your risk of problems.
* **Ascend slowly.** Ascending too quickly can cause barotrauma. Ascend at a rate of no more than 30 feet per minute.
* **Listen to your body.** If you experience any symptoms of hypoxia, barotrauma, or decompression sickness, stop diving and seek medical attention immediately.

## Conclusion

People with COPD can safely scuba dive if they take precautions to prevent problems. However, it is important to talk to a doctor before diving to assess your COPD and determine if you are healthy enough to dive.

## Additional Resources

* [American Thoracic Society](https://www.thoracic.org/)
* [National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute](https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/)
* [Scuba Diving International](https://www.scubainternational.com/)

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