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PPL » Human Factors » Decompression Sickness

10.16 Decompression Sickness

10.16.2 Define decompression sickness.

Decompression sickness, also known as "the bends," occurs when dissolved gases, such as nitrogen, form bubbles in the bloodstream and tissues.  

These bubbles can cause various symptoms and complications.



10.16.4 Explain the causes of decompression sickness. 

When a person is exposed to increased pressure, such as when diving deep underwater, their body absorbs more gases, especially nitrogen, into the tissues and bloodstream.

If they ascend too quickly without allowing the gases to gradually release, the sudden decrease in pressure can cause the dissolved gases to form bubbles in the:

  • bloodstream and
  • body's joints.  


Less commonly, the nitrogen bubbles may form in the: 

  • skin (the creeps), 
  • nervous system causing partial paralysis (the staggers), or 
  • lungs (the chokes).  




10.16.6 Describe the symptoms of decompression sickness. 

The symptoms of decompression sickness can vary depending on the severity of the condition, but they typically include:

  • joint pain,
  • fatigue,
  • dizziness,
  • difficulty breathing,
  • chest pain, and
  • skin rashes.


In more severe cases, symptoms may include:

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