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January 2017    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 43, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Those Little Blue Pills Offer Risk to Male Divers

from the January, 2017 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

It's not recent news but it might bear repeating: Divers who take Viagra for erectile dysfunction need to be aware that it may increase the risk of decompression sickness. The active ingredient is sildenafil, originally licensed to treat pulmonary hypertension. It was just a coincidence its side effect benefited the male member.

Scientists initially thought that a vasodilator such as sildenafil might protect against DCS in divers. However, those hopes were crushed when experiments on animals proved that the converse was true.

The test rodents underwent a simulated dive to 290 feet (90m) for 45 minutes in a hyperbaric chamber before undergoing staged decompression. Thirty minutes after the 'dive,' blood samples were collected for blood cell counts and the level of circulating bubbles in the right cavities was quantified.†There were more cases of DCS in the group administered with sildenafil than in the control group. Bad news for some divers!

The researchers of this study conclude that pretreatment with Viagra or other PDE-5-inhibitors promotes the onset and severity of DCS. Don't mix your pleasures!

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