An estimated 100,000 recreational scuba divers around the world have diabetes. But low glucose levels under water can lead to erroneous decisions or even unconsciousness. Given that scuba divers always have buddies, the risk extends to a second person as well.
Norway, Australia, New Zealand and a number of other countries prohibit diabetics from scuba diving, whereas Sweden, the UK and the United States restrict it.
A doctoral thesis by Peter Adolfsson, Senior Physician at the Queen Sylvia Children’s Hospital, at Sahlgrenska Academy presents a technique that may enable diabetics to scuba dive safely anywhere in the world.
A tiny needle is fastened a little more than one centimeter beneath the skin. A sensor at the top of the needle measures glucose values in the subcutaneous fat every tenth of a second, recording and transmitting the data to a monitor once every five minutes. If the values rise or fall by a certain percentage that has been adapted to the particular individual, the monitor sets off an alarm.
The needle remains in place for up to a week before it has to be changed. At that point it will have recorded glucose levels 2,016 times.
“A physically active diabetic is always at risk of developing high or low glucose levels,” Dr. Adolfsson says. “However, it is difficult, sometimes impossible, to monitor the levels during the course of an activity.”
“This technique will enable some diabetics to scuba dive with tubes, and it can definitely offer support for type 1 diabetics who participate in football, floorball, cross-country skiing, golf and other sports.”
“Physical activity is important for everyone, and type-1 diabetics are no exception,” Dr. Adolfsson says. “My hope is that this technique will allow diabetics to scuba dive anywhere in the world, as well as to lead more active lives in other respects.”
Dr. Adolfsson, who was the official physician of the Swedish women’s national football team for nine years under Marika Domanski Lyfors, has participated in three European Championships, two World Championships and one Olympic. He defended his thesis, Recreational Scuba Diving and Type 1 Diabetes – Glucose Control during Physical Exercise, on September 14.