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Decompression Sickness – Symptoms, Treatment, Definition, Causes

Decompression Sickness Definition

Decompression Sickness is a medical term that commonly affects deep sea or ocean divers but it can also happen to pilots in an unpressurized aircraft. The Decompression Sickness is otherwise known as caisson disease or the bends or primary the diver’s disease or generalized barotrauma disease condition. This kind of disease condition is a combination of the high altitude, aerospace related and changing of the barometric pressure. It is experienced by most divers who encounter a dissolution of the gases that comes out of the solution into the bubbles inside the depressurization of one’s body. It is manifested by divers who undergo rapid decompression or when the divers ascend to the surface in a quick manner will lead to decompression sickness episodes.

Decompression Sickness Symptoms

Persons who are suffering from decompression sickness commonly report the following symptoms:

  • Chest pain
  • Irritation in the skin
  • Neurological problems
  • Pain in the joints
  • Itching
  • Cramps
  • Formication episodes or sensation wherein tiny insects crawls in one’s skin
  • Skin swelling
  • Pitting edema
  • Abnormalities in the vision
  • Seizure
  • Behavior changes
  • Fecal incontinence
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Fatigue that is unexplained
  • Skin rashes
  • Headaches
  • Vertigo
  • Nausea
  • Loss of hearing
  • Loss of balance
  • Vomiting
  • Malaise that is generalized
  • Paralysis
  • Confusion
  • Cough that has a presence of blood and frothy kind of sputum
  • Difficulty in breathing episodes

These are the common symptoms associated in decompression sickness. Some divers, who commonly are the victim of this kind of disease, will not be made aware that they are actually having decompression sickness. It is advised that for these divers, to have a swimming partner who have experienced decompression sickness to be able to intervene as quickly as possible so as to save one’s life.

Decompression Sickness Causes

The causes of decompression sickness are three types which are:

  • Ascent from depth

Decompression sickness is brought about by the response of one’s body to the pressure present or plainly described as ascent from depth. It is a direct proportion wherein when the pressure in one’s body increases, so as the levels of the gases in the blood which are dissolved also increases. In turn, when the pressure will decrease in a rapid manner, the gases that are dissolved will result into bubbles which can lead to problems in one health. The abundant gas that is usually dissolved is nitrogen.  The nitrogen bubbles are the ones which are associated in decompression sickness episodes. The presence of nitrogen is not important in one’s body because it can lead to blockage to the normal flow of blood as well as damages the person’s blood vessels.

Picture of decompression sickness

Decompression sickness experienced by divers who ascend quickly

  • Ascent to altitude

Another cause of decompression sickness is due to aircraft which is unpressurized which ascends to a higher altitude which is experienced in driving aircrafts and the like. However, today brought about by the advancement of the technology that we have, this kind of ascent to altitude is no longer a problem for technology has provide the solution to such problem.

  • Leaving an environment that is high pressured

Another reason of decompression sickness is when a person leaves an environment that is high pressure. This kind of situation is common when a person goes out in a mine that has been known to be pressurized or caisson that is pressurized. The person will be able to experience a reduce amount in the ambient pressure.

Decompression Sickness Treatment

As mentioned earlier, decompression sickness has nitrogen bubbles which affect one’s health. Our body does not need nitrogen. Hence, the need to expel it through the following treatment remedies:

  • Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy

This will give the person sufficient oxygen that his or her body needs which is lacking or deficient in persons who suffers from decompression sickness. This is the initial treatment given to them. This will wash out or get rid of the nitrogen bubbles in one’s lungs and will lead to an increase amount of diffusion gradient which leads to increase offloading of the nitrogen from one’s body. This kind of therapy involves the person suffering from a decompression sickness be able to breathe pure amount of oxygen in a room that is pressurized.

  • Trendelenburg position

This is the ideal position done to prevent the medical situation called cerebral gas embolization brought about by the bubbles present in one’s body due to decompression sickness episode. Medically, it is the standard treatment measure that is done. However, some experts would not allow such treatment to happen for it will lead to exacerbation to the injury of the blood brain barrier and increase in one’s intracranial pressure. The risk of this shall be weighed out. Normally, medical experts suggest to persons suffering from decompression sickness to be placed in a comfortable position.

Decompression sickness treatment

Trendelenburg position with the head lower than the rest of the body

  • Intravenous fluids administration

This is for rehydration purposes to improve the person’s perfusion as well as the circulatory process.

Basically the goal of treatment with persons who suffer from decompression sickness which is considered to be an emergency case is to administer oxygen to be able to deliver the needed oxygen level to the tissue that is injured, get rid of the gas nitrogen bubbles, restore the architecture of the tissues, promotion of the resorption of the inert kind of gas bubbles and be able to maintain one’s blood pressure. Medical experts would strongly emphasize that the divers who are suffering from decompression sickness will never attempt to self treat themselves through deep diving for it will only make the condition far more badly than it naturally is. Hence, such action is not at all recommended.

The good thing about it is that, most of the persons who suffer from decompression sickness have a good prognosis. For mainly, by hyperbaric oxygen treatment, usually will result to a good response from the victim of decompression sickness. Repeated treatments are suggested to persons who still continue to experience symptoms associated with decompression sickness.

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