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CPL » Human Factors » Decompression Sickness

34.16 Decompression Sickness

34.16.2 Explain the causes of decompression sickness.

Decompression sickness, or the bends, can result when the pressure on the body is reduced either too quickly or for a period of time, and gases, mainly nitrogen, come out of solution and form bubbles in the bloodstream and in the body's joints.  

Less commonly, the nitrogen bubbles may form 

  • in the skin (the creeps), 
  • the nervous system causing partial paralysis (the staggers), or 
  • the lungs (the chokes).  
  • In the worst case may cause death.


34.16.4 Describe the symptoms of decompression sickness.

  • Joint pain
  • Itchiness
  • Rashes
  • Paralysis
  • Heart attacks


34.16.6 Explain how decompression sickness can be prevented.

Decompression sickness is an entirely preventable condition. 

Divers who follow rules of safe diving are unlikely to experience its effects, such as decompression stops or controlled rates of ascent.


34.16.8 Describe how decompression sickness can be treated.

Treatment involves reversing the conditions under which it first occurred. 

A person is placed into a hyperbaric (high pressure) compression chamber. 

Pressure is increased in the chamber causing nitrogen gas bubbles to go back, and then slowly reduced back to sea level pressure.

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