Diving Medicine is a growing medical specialty that focuses on the study, diagnosis and treatment of illnesses related to changes in pressure and the undersea environment. This area is rapidly expanding its knowledge base as the popularity of diving and undersea exploration continues to explode. A primary focus of diving medicine is to assess individual "Diving Fitness". As more and more people take to the water, there is an increased need to safely prepare or assess ability to dive among patients with various disease states. Particularly, dive physicians must understand how various ENT, Eye, Heart, Pulmonary, Gastrointestinal, Bone and Joint, Hematologic, Endocrine and Metabolic disease states affect the ability to dive. In addition, dive physicians can offer recommendations for people about flying and altitude, physchology and drugs, dental work, women specific concerns, hazardous marine life, long term effects of diving and specific treatment modalities if an accident occurs.
The primary accidents occuring in diving typically deal with effect pressure has on the various gases in your body. Most dive physicians treat patients for problems with equalizing pressure in their ears, sinus difficulties and of course barotrauma due to rapid ascension - "the bends". While these areas of dive medicine are perhaps most critical to understand in terms of patient care and treatment. I have chosen to speak on the more exotic, but rare, injuries from interactions with marine life.
There are a number of hazardous creatures in the sea. Many can cause serious harm to unaware or inattentive divers. Some may even cause death, although this often depends on the amount of venom used, individual reactions, nature of injury and location of accidents (deep water victims often drown). There are four major types of injury patterns from marine life. This presentation will Some basic first aid tips are given, although by far the best policy is not to meddle with these creatures.
Stingrays will defend themselves by lashing out with whip-like tails equipped with one or two spines. Because they are barbed they can cause serious gashes and in about two-thirds of species they are also venomous. The spines are capable of penetrating wetsuits and shoe leather and have been known to kill people unlucky enough to have been stabbed in the chest.
Those at risk are people wading, who often get injured on the leg, careless fishers and divers who may get lashed by a startled stingray as they swim above it. Prevention involves shuffling feet when wading. Wash wounds thoroughly with sea water and remove spines carefully.
A number of other fish are equipped with similar venomous spines, although they are more mobile than stonefish and will prefer to get out of the way. These include members of the scorpionfish family, such as this popular aquarium fish known by many names such as lionfish, butterfly cod and firefish. (The freshwater bullrout is also in this family.)