Is decompression sickness fatal?
Scuba diving, while enjoyable, does carry the risk of decompression sickness, also known as "the bends." It is a serious, and potentially lethal disease, but treatable if diagnosed early. Serious cases of the bends can result in coma or death.
Symptoms of nitrogen narcosis include: wooziness; giddiness; euphoria; disorientation; loss of balance; loss of manual dexterity; slowing of reaction time; fixation of ideas; and impairment of complex reasoning. These effects are exacerbated by cold, stress, and a rapid rate of compression.
- 10 Tips for Avoiding Nitrogen Narcosis
- 10 Tips to Avoid Nitrogen Narcosis. Take a course in deep diving from a qualified instructor.
- Be rested. Fatigue accentuates nitrogen narcosis.
- Be clean and sober.
- Exhale thoroughly.
- Plan your dive, dive your plan.
- Watch yourself.
- Watch your buddy.
- Don't become fatigued.
- Breathing nitrogen under pressure produces an intoxicating effect known as nitrogen narcosis. Most divers experience symptoms of nitrogen narcosis at depths greater than 100 feet, but symptoms may occur in depths as little as 33 feet. For this reason, use of compressed air deeper than 120 feet is not recommended.
- Central nervous system. Central nervous system oxygen toxicity manifests as symptoms such as visual changes (especially tunnel vision), ringing in the ears (tinnitus), nausea, twitching (especially of the face), behavioural changes (irritability, anxiety, confusion), and dizziness.
Here's a look at some of the best tips we've come across to avoid decompression sickness and minimize the risk of ever experiencing it ourselves:
- Plan,Plan, Plan.
- Don't dive drunk or high.
- Stay hydrated.
- Adhere to safety stops and a slow ascent rate.
- Don't fly immediately after diving.
- To put these depths into perspective, three American football fields laid end to end would measure 900 feet (274.32 m) long — less than the distance these divers reached underwater. Most recreational scuba divers only dive as deep as 130 feet (40 meters), according to the Professional Association of Diving Instructors.
- The current world record of no-limits apnea freediving is of 214 meters (~702 feet) deep. This involves a weight that will take the diver down and a system to bring him up. The diver holds his breath from the moment he leaves the surface to the moment he returns to the surface.
- Decompression sickness: Often called "the bends," decompression sickness happens when a scuba diver ascends too quickly. Divers breathe compressed air that contains nitrogen. At higher pressure under water, the nitrogen gas goes into the body's tissues. This doesn't cause a problem when a diver is down in the water.
Decompression sickness: Often called "the bends," decompression sickness happens when a scuba diver ascends too quickly. Divers breathe compressed air that contains nitrogen. At higher pressure under water, the nitrogen gas goes into the body's tissues. This doesn't cause a problem when a diver is down in the water.
- (Decompression Illness; Caisson Disease; The Bends) Decompression sickness is a disorder in which nitrogen dissolved in the blood and tissues by high pressure forms bubbles as pressure decreases. Symptoms can include fatigue and pain in muscles and joints.
- 10 Tips for Easy Equalizing (Divers Alert Network)
- Listen for the “pop” Before you even board the boat, make sure that when you swallow you hear a “pop” or “click” in both ears.
- Start early.
- Equalize at the surface.
- Descend feet first.
- Look up.
- Use a descent line.
- Stay ahead.
- Stop if it hurts.
- The need to do decompression stops increases with depth. A diver at 6 metres (20 ft) may be able to dive for many hours without needing to do decompression stops. At depths greater than 40 metres (130 ft), a diver may have only a few minutes at the deepest part of the dive before decompression stops are needed.
Updated: 3rd October 2019