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MEDICAL FAQs

Suunto
Dive Medical questions & answers for common scuba diving conditions and illness provided in conjunction with the doctors at the London Diving Chamber and Midlands Diving Chamber.
All Categories » Endocrine » Thyroid

QUESTION

I am currently in the U.S. Navy and stationed at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center in Panama City, Fl. When I reached the School here I was told by the DMO that I was disqualified from diving duty due to Graves Disease. I was diagnosed in 1994, treated with radioactive iodine and am now on Levothyroxine. I have never experienced a problem with this disease and am a PADI certified diver, so I have had the experience of pressure at depth and have had no problems there either.

I would like your opinion your opinion as to whether I am fit to dive.

ANSWER

Graves Disease is a relatively rare condition that affects the thyroid gland a small gland in the front of the neck that is responsible for regulating the metabolism of the body. In Graves disease, the body’s immune system attacks the gland making it overproduce thyroxine, a hormone that acts on every cell in the body. In most cases the condition is picked up quickly, and treated with drugs, surgery or radioactive iodine. Usually this results in the gland becoming underactive and not producing enough thyroxine, and it has to be replaced in the form of tablets. Once stabilized there are usually no long-term problems.

During the stage of excess thyroxine production, there can be multiple symptoms: fast heart rates, excessive sweating, intolerance to heat, anxiety and more serious symptoms such as heart disease, and a condition called exophthalmos, where the eyes bulge out.

Provided that you have been checked out, there have been no serious long lasting side effects and you are stable on thyroxine, I see no reason why you should not be able to dive.

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