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Decompression sickness (DCS) is the release of gas bubbles into the blood caused by a sudden decrease in pressure around the body.

Commonly called the bends, and sometimes diver's disease or caisson disease, DCS most notably afflicts SCUBA divers.

Oxygen and nitrogen bubbles form in the organs and tissues during a long or deep dive.

Nitrogen bubbles enter the bloodstream when a diver ascends too rapidly.

Flying in an unpressurized airplane may also cause DCS.

Decompression sickness is the most common cause of air or gas embolism.

An embolism is a blockage in the bloodstream. A bubble can obstruct blood flow and damage the brain, the heart, or other vital organs and tissues, resulting in pain or death.

Permanent disabilities may include vision impairment, paralysis, and respiratory problems.

The diagnosis of DCS is made on the basis of signs and/or symptoms after a dive or altitude exposure.

Manifestations most commonly include paresthesias, hypesthesia, joint pain, skin rash and malaise.

More serious signs and symptoms include motor weakness, ataxia, dyspnea, urethral and anal sphincter dysfunction, shock and death.

Severe DCS may be accompanied by hemoconcentration and hypotension.

Severe symptoms usually occur within 1-3 hours of decompression; the vast majority of all symptoms manifest within 24 hours, unless there is an additional decompression (e.g. altitude exposure).

More serious signs and symptoms include motor weakness, ataxia, dyspnea, urethral and anal sphincter dysfunction, shock and death.

Severe DCS may be accompanied by hemoconcentration and hypotension.

Severe symptoms usually occur within 1-3 hours of decompression; the vast majority of all symptoms manifest within 24 hours, unless there is an additional decompression (e.g. altitude exposure).

The diagnosis of DCS is made on the basis of signs and/or symptoms after a dive or altitude exposure.

Manifestations most commonly include paresthesias, hypesthesia, joint pain, skin rash and malaise.

More serious signs and symptoms include motor weakness, ataxia, dyspnea, urethral and anal sphincter dysfunction, shock and death.

Severe DCS may be accompanied by hemoconcentration and hypotension.

Severe symptoms usually occur within 1-3 hours of decompression; the vast majority of all symptoms manifest within 24 hours, unless there is an additional decompression (e.g. altitude exposure).

More serious signs and symptoms include motor weakness, ataxia, dyspnea, urethral and anal sphincter dysfunction, shock and death.

Severe DCS may be accompanied by hemoconcentration and hypotension.

Severe symptoms usually occur within 1-3 hours of decompression; the vast majority of all symptoms manifest within 24 hours, unless there is an additional decompression (e.g. altitude exposure).

An embolism is a moving obstruction in the bloodstream. An air or gas bubble can obstruct blood flow and damage the brain, the heart, or other vital organs and tissues, resulting in pain or death. Permanent disabilities may include vision impairment, p aralysis, and respiratory problems.

Gas bubbles in veins travel to the heart and then to the lungs. If the bubbles are small, such as those introduced inadvertently through intraveneous fluid lines, they are usualy stopped at the lungs and rarely produce symptoms. Larger gas bubbles in veins can lodge in the heart, lungs, or brain and cause damage.

Arterial gas embolisms (AGE) can be much more damaging because they can directly obstruct the flow of blood to body tissue. Even small arterial gas obstructions can cause death by stopping the flow of blood to the heart, brain, and lungs.

Rapid decompression events, such as scuba diving accidents, can cause gas embolisms through the formation of bubbles from the release of dissolved nitrogen in the body. Nitrogen bubbles can form directly in tissue and cause damage there.

Nitrogen bubbles can also form in the circulatory system from gas disolved in blood. But because arterial blood has recently passed through the lungs, where excess gas can be released, gas embolisms usually do not form in arteries from decompression events.

Air or gas embolisms can also result from mechanisms of injury that have nothing to do with decompression, such as industrial accidents involving compressed air or gas. Some medical procedures carry an increased risk of introducing gas bubbles into the bloodstream, although the occurence of such injuries is rare.

Rapid decompression events, such as scuba diving accidents, can cause gas embolisms through the formation of bubbles from the release of dissolved nitrogen in the body. Nitrogen bubbles can form directly in tissue and cause damage there.

Nitrogen bubbles can also form in the circulatory system from gas disolved in blood. But because arterial blood has recently passed through the lungs, where excess gas can be released, gas embolisms usually do not form in arteries from decompression events.

Air or gas embolisms can also result from mechanisms of injury that have nothing to do with decompression, such as industrial accidents involving compressed air or gas. Some medical procedures carry an increased risk of introducing gas bubbles into the bloodstream, although the occurence of such injuries is rare.