Decompression sickness, also known as “the bends,” results from inadequate decompression after diving to depth. During a dive, the body absorbs nitrogen from the breathing gas in proportion to the surrounding pressure. While the diver remains at depth, this gas presents no problem. When the pressure is reduced as the diver ascends, however, the nitrogen may come out of solution and form bubbles in the tissues and blood.
In some cases, the symptoms are mild and may be limited to tingling, numbness, pain, or discomfort in joints or muscles. In other cases, serious symptoms, such as vertigo, paralysis, difficulty breathing or inability to urinate, may result.
DCS can result from diving too deep or staying down too long, but it also occurs in divers who dived within the limits of their computer or dive table. It’s important to remember that the most significant risk factor for DCS is your exposure profile— the time, depth and ascent rate of your dives—but there are several other risk factors that divers should also consider.
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