According to World Health Organization (WHO), 6,316 people die each hour, 151,600 people die each day, and 55.3 million people die each year. A Pulmonary Embolism (PE) is one of the common causes of death, with 50,000 to 200,000 annual deaths. It is a disease in which one or more arteries in the lungs become blocked by a blood clot, causing shortness of breath, chest pain, and cough. People tend to downplay the seriousness of Pulmonary Embolism because it has a low possibility of death.
Swimming Induced Pulmonary Edema (SIPE) is one of the types of Pulmonary Embolism which occurs when fluids from the blood leak abnormally from pulmonary capillaries into alveoli, the airspaces of our neck. Most of the patients are swimmers, divers, or people who work in conditions of water immersion. The symptoms of SIPE occur depending on the condition of the lungs.
Richard Moon, a Medical Director from the Center for the Hyperbaric Medicine and Environmental Physiology Laboratory, reported to American Heart Association (AHA) that taking a small amount of the erectile dysfuction drug, Viagra, also called sildenafil citrate, before exercising can prevent SIPE.
Dr. Moon and his team have tried comparative experiments on 30 triathlon athletes.
Out of the 30 athletes, 10 people had experience SIPE in the past, and 20 did not. Before the experiment, all the participants did not have any in heart issues. During the experiment, when they had to exercise in water, people vulnerable to SIPE had higher than normal pressure of blood flow to the heart. Consequently, pressure in pulmonary veins increased, and some even experienced problems with their hearts.
Through this experiment, Dr. Moon proved one of the main reasons why SIPE occurs: high pressure in pulmonary veins. Surprisingly, participants who doped sildenafil citrate before the exercising did not show any symptoms. This is a significant discovery, especially for athletes, because hundreds of them had to take a long break or even quit certain sports.
In an interview with JSR, a high school swimmer Chris Jang said, “I started swimming because of asthma since I have very weak bronchial tubes. My parents were always worried if I get SIPE because it is related to breathing. I think it is a great discovery for a student like me who swims because now we don’t have to worry about SIPE anymore.”
Although sildenafil citrate helped cure many athletes, it applied specifically to male participants. It was found that female athletes did not benefit from the same medicine due to the different biochemical structure of their bodies. When women used sildenafil citrate, they experienced headaches, memory loss, dizziness, low blood pressure, and more. Thus, Dr. Moon clarified that he needs to further his research with larger groups due to different effects and side effects.