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Diseases and Disorders that Seafarers Should Know

Feb 13, 2015

Aside from the fact that seafarers are prone to accidents, they are also exposed to many diseases and disorders due to many factors surrounding the nature of their work.

These include seafarers long working hours, climate status, personal habits, epidemic and endemic diseases from every port docked, and others.


Though each seafarer undergo medical assessment before they can go on board, their life at sea is still in eminent danger since there is no doctor that can check on them through their journey.


The diseases and disorders listed below are the most common illnesses most seafarers acquire while working on board any ship or vessel:


  1. Hypertension. Due to excessive stress, homesickness, smoking, lack of exercise or workout, overconsumption of alcohol and fatigue, hypertension is one of the major danger seafarers get working on board. Seafarers should also remember that hypertension can lead to renal failure and stroke. Good eating habits, engaging in physical activities, and healthy lifestyle can help prevent hypertension.

  2. Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome or HAVS.  Some seafarer operate equipments that cause this syndrome, like needle guns and grinders. Prolonged exposure to power tools with the lack of proper usage and limits of use may result to HAVS, which will lead to permanent disability if not detected and treated early. Tingling of fingers, numbness and pain in the arm and wrist are some of the common symptoms of HAVS.

  3. Pandemic and Epidemic Diseases. Since seafarers docked on many different ports around the world on the course of their journey, they are vulnerable to common diseases like cholera, malaria, tuberculosis, yellow fever and others. Despite having shots for vaccine, sudden outbreak of new diseases will make seafarers susceptible.

  4. Cardio-Vascular Disease or CVD. High-stress levels are common cause of cardio-vascular diseases, commonly found in seafaring community. Together with factors like genes, age, unhealthy lifestyle, added with the condition on board that contributes to stress like multi-tasking and lack of exercise, any seafarer is prone to CVD.

  5. Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD). Unsafe sexual activities of seafarers make them a victim of fatal diseases like HIV/AIDS, and gonorrhea or syphilis. Seafarers should be aware of STDs so they can practice self-discipline and control to minimize the and prevent the risk of transmission, which can give a big impact both on their professional and personal life.

  6. Musculoskeletal Disorder or MSD. MSD are injuries or pain on our body’s joints, ligaments, muscles, nerves, tendons and structures that supports our limbs, neck and back. Seafarers acquire MSD because of sudden lifting of heavy object and from making repetitive action. Exercise and stretching can prevent MSD among seafarers, as most of them do straight 12 hours duty onboard.

  7. Cancer. Seafarers with various cases of cancers have increased in numbers, most of them with lung cancer, renal cancer, leukemia and lymphoma. Continuous exposure to UV radiation, toxic substances, and smoking among others make seafarers unsafe. Seafarers working on oil, chemical and product tankers are also likely to develop various types of cancer, brain cancer and leukemia at the most.



Given the risk that seafarers face while at sea, maintaining healthy lifestyle, good eating habits and practicing physical exercise or activities can help minimize the acquisition of diseases mentioned above. As they say,prevention is better than cure.


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