Decompression Syndromes: The Bends (cont.)
IN THIS ARTICLE
The Bends Symptoms
The nervous and musculoskeletal system are most often affected. If a diver is going to develop symptoms they will show within 48 hours in all cases. Ninety-five percent (95%) have symptoms within 6 hours, while 50% develop within the first hour of surfacing from a dive.
DCS is often categorized into two types. Type I indicating mild symptoms and Type II with neurologic and other serious symptoms.
Symptoms of the bends include the following:
Musculoskeletal Symptoms (most common symptoms)
Itching (also known as "the creeps")
The Chokes (pulmonary or lung decompression sickness)
Neurologic Decompression Sickness (these symptoms may be the only DCS signs)
Lymph nodes (glands)
The lymph glands can be swollen and painful.
Pain can occur at the head, neck, or torso. Pain at these sites versus the arms or legs carries a worse prognosis.
Occasionally someone with decompression illness may have symptoms suggesting an inner ear problem, such as a spinning sensation, deafness, ringing in the ears, or vomiting. This group of symptoms is called the "staggers."
Scott D. Fell, DO, FAAEM
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Although decompression sickness (DCS), a complex resulting from changed barometric pressure, includes high-altitude–related and aerospace-related events, this article focuses on decompression associated with the sudden decrease in pressures during underwater ascent, usually occurring during free or assisted dives.