The Bends


Decompression sickness, also known as “the bends” is a type of illness associated with diving due to rapid pressure decrease around the body. It is commonly caused by nitrogen bubbles build up in the body. During diving, pressure increases as the diver descends. The issue with decompression will exist upon ascend wherein this pressure will be released. Resurfacing must be done gradually and incorporate a process called decompression stops so that the nitrogen slowly seeps out of the body tissues. Otherwise, fast ascend can cause the nitrogen to escape extremely fast and starts to form bubbles that leads to “the bends”.

There are several symptoms that can be observed to arrive at a conclusion that a diver is having decompression sickness. Some of these symptoms include joint pain, limb pain, extreme exhaustion, tingling sensation, numbness, skin rashes, dizziness, headache, blurry vision, stomach sickness and ringing ears.

DCS (decompression sickness) can be classified into 2 types. Type I does not cause serious health threats but involves joint, limbs and skin problems. Type II puts a diver’s life in danger due to the fact that it affects quite a number of internal organs and systems like the brain, circulatory and respiratory systems.

Treatment for this kind of illness requires recompression therapy and enough oxygen absorption. A diver suffering from DCS must be brought to a dive medic or nearest medical facility within 24 hours because prolonged exposure to the sickness might make it permanent and immune to treatment.

Recompression and abundant oxygen intake normally lead to a complete recovery however, there are rare cases that symptoms reoccur even after treatment so the diver must undergo follow up cure and physical therapy.



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