Decompression Sickness in Scuba Diving

Decompression Sickness pic
Decompression Sickness
Image: maldivestravel.com

A Texas-based consultant for pain management, Dr. Benjamin Wiseman has some 30 years’ experience in his field. Most recently, Dr. Benjamin Wiseman’s professional interests have expanded to include treatment of decompression sickness for scuba divers.

Also called The Bends, decompression sickness has to do with changes in the blood during a dive. At sea level, ordinary breathing expels nitrogen gas from the body. However, breathing compressed air at depth from a scuba tank prevents this process – the bloodstream and tissues absorb more nitrogen, depending on the time spent at a particular depth.

This does not create a problem until the time comes to ascend. As the pressure of the surrounding water decreases, nitrogen forms bubbles in the bloodstream and tissues. If the diver goes up too quickly, these bubbles can cause extreme pain.

Stopping in mid-ascent once or several times causes the gas to form micro-bubbles, which cause no health problems. If this is not practical, divers can use a hyperbaric chamber to safely stimulate decompression.

Dr. Benjamin Wiseman has training in the use of a hyperbaric chamber. This also allows for treatment of areas of the body that are not receiving adequate oxygen levels delivered by the capillaries to the tissues, either by bubbles in the bloodstream or by blockages due to disease such as atherosclerosis or diabetes.

The chamber delivers 100% oxygen to people inside it – air compressors raise the pressure to the correct level. This allows cells to renew themselves as more oxygen enters the blood, as they would in a controlled ascent. The longer a diver is submerged, the longer he or she must stay in the chamber.

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