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Decompression Illness

Decompression Illness Overview

Decompression illness can develop during scuba diving and occurs in the following conditions:

  • When gas bubbles become entrapped in the body as a result of rapid ascent


  • After inadequate exhalation during ascent


  • Holding your breath during scuba diving


  • Air trapping in the lungs due to water inhalation or lung diseases

Risk factors for decompression illness include cold, stress, fatigue, dehydration, obesity, old age, exercise, flying after diving, rapid ascents, deep diving, and repetitive diving.

Two types of decompression sickness exist: Type I involves the muscles, skin, and lymphatics. Type II involves the brain, ears, and lungs (typically more serious).

Record all details of recent dive profiles. To help prevent decompression illness, do not fly on an airplane for at least 12 hours after 2 hours of total dive time during the previous 2 days.

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Decompression Sickness »

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.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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