Barotrauma

Barotrauma is the pain or discomfort that you feel when there is a difference in air pressure between the outside environment and the inside of your body. You may have this discomfort when you fly in an airplane or go scuba diving. Barotrauma can even be due to equipment such as a mask or dry suit used for scuba diving. The equipment can block and trap air against the skin. You may become injured if an air pocket happens when you dive. Dry suits can painfully pinch your skin. Masks can cause blood vessels in the eyes to burst. Contact your doctor if you think you may have some type of barotrauma.

  • Causes


    Barotrauma is caused when the air pressure inside and outside the body are different. This results in discomfort. Causes include:

    • Flying

    • Scuba diving

      • Ascending (going up to the surface) without exhaling freely
      • Swimming quickly to the surface when diving
      • Holding your breath when ascending
      • Underwater diving for an increased period of time
      • Repeated dives within 24 hours
      • Flying in an airplane after diving
      • Having air pockets in equipment (such as masks and dry suits)

  • Definition

    Barotrauma is the pain or discomfort that you feel when there is a difference in air pressure between the outside environment and the inside of your body. You may have this discomfort when you fly in an airplane or go scuba diving.

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    Barotrauma can even be due to equipment such as a mask or dry suit used for scuba diving. The equipment can block and trap air against the skin. You may become injured if an air pocket happens when you dive. Dry suits can painfully pinch your skin. Masks can cause blood vessels in the eyes to burst.

    Contact your doctor if you think you may have some type of barotrauma.

  • Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. If you have been flying or have been diving recently it is important to tell your physician.

    Get medical help right away if you think that you have pulmonary barotrauma or decompression sickness.

    Your doctor may choose to treat you immediately if you have been diving recently and show symptoms of decompression sickness.

  • Prevention

    Take the following steps to help reduce your chances of getting barotrauma:

  • Risk Factors


    Risk factors that increase your chance of developing barotrauma include:


    • Congested nose from
      allergies
      or
      colds
    • Congenital (present before birth) blockage of the eustachian tubes
    • Smoker

    • Age: children and older adults

      • Eustachian tubes in children are smaller and more likely to become blocked.
    • Damaged eustachian tube, caused by scarring or a tumor
    • Obstructions in the ear
    • Cleft palate
      or lip—may affect balance of pressure in the middle ears
    • Holding your breath while diving
    • Deeper dives
    • Long amounts of time spent underwater diving
    • Repeated dives within 24 hours
    • Flying in an airplane after diving
    • Rapid return to the surface when diving
    • Fatigue
    • Dehydration
    • Cold water
    • Obesity
    • Poor fitting equipment used for scuba diving
    • Congenital (present before birth) blockage or narrowing of the sinus drainage system

  • Symptoms

    You need to seek treatment immediately if you have symptoms of an air embolism due to pulmonary barotrauma. Symptoms of an air embolism to the brain are usually identified very quickly after you surface from the water.

    Symptoms of decompression sickness usually occur within an hour of surfacing from the water. They can also occur up to six hours later. It is very important to seek treatment immediately if you have decompression sickness.

    If you have any of these other symptoms do not assume it is due to barotrauma. These symptoms may be caused by other, less serious health conditions.

    Symptoms include:

  • Treatment

    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. The following measures can also prevent barotrauma. Treatment options include the following: