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Microlight » Human Factors » Decompression Sickness

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.

These symptoms, and their avoidance by controlled rates of ascent, are well known to properly trained divers.  

What is perhaps less well publicised is the additional potential hazard of flying after diving.  

Whilst the increased nitrogen solution may not have been sufficient to cause decompression sickness after a diving session, the further decompression associated with flight at altitude may be sufficient to bring on an attack.  

Certain conditions increase the risk of experiencing decompression sickness.  

These include: 

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