Dr. Amit KalariaEmergency Medicine

The Bends

2 min read
The bends, also known as decompression sickness, is something that can happen in scuba divers.
It is caused by nitrogen gas dissolving into the tissues of the body. The deeper the diver goes the more nitrogen gets dissolved.
The problem occurs when the diver returns back to the surface. If the accent is too rapid, the nitrogen gas begins to bubble and this leads to the symptoms.
Depending on where the gas bubbles form in the body it will lead to different symptoms. It can cause musculoskeletal pain, pain in the joints, skin rashes and extreme fatigue. It can also lead to more serious complications such as lung injury, spinal cord injury and paralysis.
Treatment depends on the severity of symptoms but may include IV fluids and oxygen, and in severe cases hyperbaric chamber treatment.
Hyperbaric chambers simulate dives which allow the nitrogen levels to be reabsorbed into the blood gradually. 
The best prevention is to follow dive tables which will guide you on how quickly you can ascend. It is also recommended not to fly for 24 hours after a deep dive. 
With safe diving practices and education you can reduce the likelihood of developing the bends.