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Wilderness: Decompression Illness (cont.)

Decompression Illness Symptoms

  • Decompression illness symptoms generally begin within 6-48 hours after diving.


  • Type I symptoms include aching of joints, most commonly the elbow and shoulder joints, mottling of the skin, itching, and rash.


  • Type II symptoms include nausea, vomiting, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, numbness and tingling, and chest pain. Less common symptoms include coughing, difficulty urinating, loss of bowel or bladder control, blood in the stools, ringing in the ears, hearing loss, and shortness of breath. Very severe symptoms include paralysis, seizures, slurred speech, loss of vision, confusion, and coma. Death can occur.

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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.

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