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Low Platelets and Scuba Diving

There are several medical risks associated with low platelet levels (thrombocytopenia), such as excessive bleeding and ecchymosis (bruising).

This help guide explains the recommended guidelines for low platelet count and scuba diving and how anemia can cause serious issues underwater.

Is it Safe to Dive with a Low Platelet Level?

Some medical conditions that can stop you from scuba diving are easy to understand, such as recent ear surgery.

But, what about divers who get diagnosed with low platelets? What are the implications for diving?

Here's the important part:

It can affect the way the body clots blood (e.g. in response to injury).

So, it's important to understand how having a low platelet count could become a serious problem while you're underwater.

Most of the common diving injuries result in a loss of blood, such as minor cuts and bruises. In addition, a middle-ear barotrauma or sinus damage can also manifest itself as a bleeding wound in the ears or nose.

For the most part, these kinds of impairments tend to resolve themselves without a need for medical intervention (e.g. they are self-limited).

In simple terms, a process called coagulation will help to stop the bleed. Slowing the blood loss also provides more time for divers to seek medical treatment.

How Does Low Platelets Affect Blood Clotting?

The condition known as thrombocytopenia occurs when bone marrow fails to make enough blood cells (platelets) to form life saving blood clots.

In other words, if you have a low level of platelets and go scuba diving, it may be hard to stop a bleeding injury - even a minor wound.

Hence, common barotraumas that involve the ears, nose, or throat could become a medical emergency for divers with anaemia. In general, there would be no way to apply pressure to slow down the loss of blood.

Bleeding and Decompression Injuries

The health risks for scuba divers with low platelets is going to increase with decompression injuries, because of the associated bubble formation and growth.

Thus, any microscopic tissue damage, caused by mechanical tissue disruption and several inflammatory processes, is also likely to result in some blood loss.

Key takeaways:

People with a good platelet count can control microbleeds via "efficient" coagulation. But, divers with blood clotting issues will have a reduction in the efficacy of recompression therapy for DCS injuries.

In the most severe cases, the problem may prove to be critical, resulting in arterial gas embolism (AGE), or spinal cord involvement.

Important: Anyone with a low platelet count should get a medical evaluation from a doctor before they go scuba diving.

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