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Barotrauma/Decompression Sickness (cont.)

Barotrauma/Decompression Sickness Symptoms

You should consider the signs and symptoms of diving injuries with regard to your overall dive plan, including what part of the dive you were performing when the problems occurred.

  • The history of the dive is very important to medical personnel and should always be included when assistance is required.
    • Barotrauma such as squeezes will commonly occur during descent, and the symptoms will frequently prevent a diver from reaching the desired depth.
    • You will notice symptoms of aerogastralgia, pulmonary barotrauma, air embolism, and decompression sickness both during and after ascent.

The following are symptoms for specific pressure problems:

  • External ear squeeze: Pain in your ear canal and blood from your ear
  • Middle ear squeeze: Ear fullness, pain, eardrum rupture, disorientation, nausea, and vomiting
  • Inner ear barotrauma: Feeling that your ear is full, nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ear, dizziness, and hearing loss
  • Sinus squeeze: Sinus pressure, pain, or nasal bleeding
  • Face mask squeeze: "Bloodshot" eyes and redness or bruising of the face under the mask
  • Lung squeeze: Chest pain, cough, bloody cough, and shortness of breath
  • Aerogastralgia (gastric squeeze): Abdominal fullness, colicky pain (severe pain with fluctuating severity), belching, and flatulence (gas expelled through the anus).
  • Pulmonary barotrauma: Hoarseness, neck fullness, and chest pain several hours after diving. Shortness of breath, painful swallowing, and loss of consciousness also may occur.
  • Air embolism: Sudden loss of consciousness within 10 minutes of surfacing. Other symptoms include paralysis, numbness, blindness, deafness, dizziness, seizures, confusion, or difficulty speaking. The paralysis and numbness can involve several different parts of the body at the same time.
  • Decompression sickness: Rashes, itching, or bubbles under your skin
    • Lymphatic obstruction which can cause localized swelling
    • Musculoskeletal symptoms include joint pain that worsens with movement and commonly involves the elbows and shoulders
    • Nervous system after-effects include paralysis, sensory disturbances, and bladder problems, usually the inability to urinate.
    • Pulmonary symptoms include chest pain, cough, and shortness of breath.
    • Symptoms usually appear within 1 hour of surfacing but can be delayed up to 6 hours. In rare instances symptoms may not appear until 48 hours after the dive.
    • Flying in a commercial aircraft after diving may cause "the bends" to develop in the airplane because the cabin pressure is less than sea level pressure.

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Barotrauma »

Diving as a profession can be traced back more than 5000 years, yet diving-related disease was not described until Paul Bert wrote about caisson disease in 1878.

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