What Causes Decompression Sickness?
When we breathe in an environment with increased atmospheric pressure, our lungs absorb more nitrogen into the bloodstream than usual. Because our bodies don’t use, or metabolise, the nitrogen it remains in the system until it can be expelled when we breathe out.
Divers experience increasing pressure the deeper they reach and, conversely, the pressure reduces and returns to a normal level as they ascend. If excess nitrogen remains in the system after the pressure has returned to normal, it can form into bubbles in the blood or body tissues.
These bubbles are the cause of Decompression Illness, and the reason why divers are taught to ascend gradually. Ascending gradually gives the body a chance to expel as much of the excess nitrogen as possible.
Effects differ from person to person but varying predisposing factors are thought to heavily contribute to DCI even with correct procedures. Breath holding and air trapping in the lungs during ascent or decompression may also lead to DCI as well as some heart defects.
Signs and Symptoms of Decompression Sickness
Altered consciousness, balance and coordination problems, memory problems, headache, nausea and vomiting, vertigo, numbness and tingling, joint pain, unusual fatigue, paralysis, skin rashes, difficulty walking/standing, muscular weakness, difficulty urinating, difficulty breathing.
Decompression Illness (DCI) Treatment
Staffed by a team of experienced and highly motivated doctors, supervisors, nurses and attendants, our facilities have unrivalled experience in the treatment of conditions relating to diving accidents and recognising the signs and symptoms.
So if you believe you or any of your buddies may be showing any of these symptoms then contact us immediately. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Even if you’re not sure, call our Divers Emergency Service to be connected to a diving doctor who can advise accordingly.
We operate the Divers Emergency Service – a dedicated website and 24 hr/day helpline providing free advice, contact with diving doctors and access to NHS funded hyperbaric treatment where applicable.
Divers can phone our helpline 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, if they suspect they or their buddy may be affected by Decompression Illness. If you are simply not sure, it is better to be safe than sorry and you should call our friendly, knowledgeable staff without delay.
Often, treatment in a hyperbaric chamber isn’t necessary. However, if our diving doctors recommend it and you are in our catchment area we can also provide treatment at our facilities in East London and Great Yarmouth.
We are members of the British Hyperbaric Association. So if you are outside our catchment area, or there is another hyperbaric chamber closer to you, we can connect you with a network of other chambers throughout the UK.