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Can Your Lungs Collapse from Scuba Diving?


Scuba diving is a popular recreational activity that allows people to explore the underwater world. However, there are some risks associated with scuba diving, including the risk of lung collapse.

What is a Lung Collapse?

A lung collapse, also known as a pneumothorax, occurs when air enters the space between the lung and the chest wall. This can cause the lung to collapse, which can lead to serious breathing problems.

Causes of Lung Collapse in Scuba Diving

There are several factors that can contribute to lung collapse in scuba diving, including:

  • Barotrauma: This is a condition that occurs when there is a rapid change in pressure, such as when a diver ascends or descends too quickly. Barotrauma can cause the air in the lungs to expand or contract, which can lead to lung collapse.
  • Blunt chest trauma: This can occur if a diver is struck by a wave or another object, which can cause the chest wall to collapse and compress the lungs.
  • Penetrating chest trauma: This can occur if a diver is stabbed or shot, which can cause a hole in the chest wall and allow air to enter the pleural space.

Symptoms of Lung Collapse

The symptoms of lung collapse can vary depending on the severity of the collapse. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Cough
  • Wheezing
  • Cyanosis (bluish discoloration of the skin)
  • Lightheadedness
  • Loss of consciousness
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Treatment of Lung Collapse

The treatment of lung collapse depends on the severity of the collapse. In some cases, simply resting and breathing oxygen may be enough to re-inflate the lung. In other cases, more invasive treatment may be necessary, such as:

  • Chest tube insertion: This is a procedure in which a small tube is inserted into the pleural space to drain the air and re-inflate the lung.
  • Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to repair a hole in the chest wall or to remove a foreign object from the lung.

Preventing Lung Collapse in Scuba Diving

There are several things that divers can do to help prevent lung collapse, including:

  • Ascend and descend slowly: This will help to prevent barotrauma.
  • Equalize the pressure in your ears and sinuses: This will help to prevent air from entering the pleural space.
  • Avoid diving if you have a cold or other respiratory infection: This will help to reduce the risk of developing a lung infection.
  • Get regular medical checkups: This will help to ensure that you are healthy enough to dive.


Lung collapse is a serious complication of scuba diving, but it can be prevented by following the proper safety guidelines. If you experience any symptoms of lung collapse, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.

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