Medical Forum
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Posted : August 4, 2008
Hi Doc, in 1992 i was diagnosed with polycythemia, too many red blood cells, im 50 now. I Have located a dive doctor in liverpool who I plan on seeing and am after a bit of information on what to expect. the only medication im on is asprin over the years the only symptoms I have are itching after shower, occationaly tiredness. and headaches but no headaches for about 5 years now.The last time I had any blood taken was August 2007, last month my bloods came back in limits and they said the spleen is ok, My consultant is ok for me to dive but I know he isnt a dive doctor. on the medical forms I have seen on the internet Polycythemia is put as a relative risk,what are the risks and effects of diving with pv and will I be allowed to dive ? thanks

Posted : August 4, 2008
Thanks for the query, an unusual one but here are the main implications I can think of:

Too many red blood cells can cause a few diving issues. The symptoms can mimic DCI (headaches, itchy skin, dizziness etc), and an enlarged spleen could be more at risk of rupture from weight belts/heavy dive gear.

Because the blood is thicker, you are more likely to have clotting problems, which means that if you have any bleeding from the sinuses, lungs or ears, it may be worse.

Some of the drugs used to treat polycythaemia can cause side effects adverse to diving, but if you are only on aspirin this is not an issue.

Basically if the condition is fully under control, ie. you have normal blood counts, a normal sized spleen and no side effects with medications, then in my opinion you should be OK to dive.


Dr O
Answer provided by Dr Oliver Firth
Dr Ollie Firth
The views expressed by Dr Firth & Dr Jules are their own and the publishers accept no liability for the advice and views expressed by Dr Firth , Dr Jules, or other users, which are provided as a general service to divers. Users are warned that secondary posts are the views of other users and may not be medically correct.
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