How to Understand Underwater Pressure in Scuba Diving


Underwater pressure is so different from air pressure that you must compensate for the change if you go scuba diving. If you understand how underwater pressure affects you, you can better adjust your diving equipment and breathing patterns. If you don’t, you risk major injury or death.

Water Pressure vs. Air Pressure

  • Water places more pressure on your body than does air. Water squeezes you, making it more difficult to expand your chest, and the pressure only becomes greater the deeper you go. Water can’t be compressed, but solids and air can. If you don’t have a way to combat that pressure and compression, you could be crushed if you dive too deep.

Pressurized Air and Partial Pressure

  • But even at shallower depths, the pressure is great enough to prevent you from expanding your lungs so you can breathe from your air supply, if you have an air supply that uses regular air pressure. This is why scuba divers use a pressurized air supply. The air in the tanks is pressurized to match that of the water you’ll be diving in. The tanks have a regulator that adjusts the air pressure as you swim around. As you dive down, the pressure in the tank increases so that when you expand your chest to inhale, you can match the pressure of the water and expand your chest with relative ease.

Dangers of Different Pressures

  • The air pressure does not change inside your lungs. If you breathe in pressurized air and hold it, your body won’t convert the pressure as you swim around. If you dive deeper, you’ll begin to feel that crushing feeling again. If you start ascending, your lung pressure could become too great. You must breathe normally as you ascend. If you don’t, the greater air pressure in your lungs could cause them to burst once the outside pressure becomes much less.

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