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July 2007    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 22, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Younger, Newer and Female Divers Show More DCI Symptoms

from the July, 2007 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Neurological problems are common in divers suffering decompression illness, but researchers from the Ohio State University Medical Center decided to look at the full range of physical effects. In a presentation for the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society, they presented their review of 200 recreational divers treated for DCI at a hyperbaric chamber in Cozumel, the largest study of its kind to date.

The researchers found that 88 percent of divers had at least one severe neurological symptom. Two-thirds of them had some numbness or tingling in their bodies, and half of the divers also felt a more painful “pins and needles” sensation. Other common symptoms were loss of coordination, motor weakness, dizziness, nausea, headache, blurry vision and vertigo.

Most interesting was that divers with Type II DCI, showing neurological symptoms, compared to those with Type I and no symptoms, were typically younger and less experienced divers. “The affected divers averaged 39 years old compared to the median age of 46, and they also averaged a total of 80 dives compared to a median of 289,” says Herbert Newton, professor of neurology at Ohio State University Medical Center and a physician at its hyperbaric medicine unit. “We don’t know exactly why that is, but we’re thinking less experienced divers are more likely to injure themselves more seriously and get hit harder.”

DCI also differed by gender. Female divers were more likely to feel painful skin symptoms; 41 percent had some skin-related symptom compared to 3 percent of men. The affected women were also less experienced, averaging 76 dives to 143 dives for the affected men. Newton says there is a gender difference but it still is unexplained. “We don’t think this is freak data though because 200 divers is a pretty large group to be tested.”

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