Decompression illness

Decompression illness (DCI) in scuba diving is a condition that may occur when dissolved gases, primarily nitrogen, come out of solution and form bubbles within the body as a diver ascends. This condition is often associated with inadequate decompression following a dive, particularly when divers exceed no-decompression limits or make rapid ascents.

DCI includes two main types: decompression sickness (DCS) and arterial gas embolism (AGE). Decompression sickness involves the formation of bubbles in the joints, tissues, or bloodstream, causing symptoms such as joint pain, fatigue, dizziness, and neurological issues. Arterial gas embolism occurs when bubbles enter the arterial circulation, potentially leading to severe complications like stroke or heart attack.

Preventing DCI involves adhering to proper dive tables or dive computer guidelines, making controlled ascents, and taking safety stops to off-gas accumulated nitrogen. In the event of suspected DCI, prompt medical evaluation and hyperbaric oxygen therapy are crucial for effective treatment.

Divers should prioritize safety measures, including conservative dive profiles and adequate surface intervals, to minimize the risk of decompression illness. Regular training, awareness of individual risk factors, and adherence to safe diving practices contribute to reducing the likelihood of DCI.

DCI can result from factors such as exceeding the recommended no-decompression limits, making rapid ascents, or not taking sufficient safety stops during the ascent. These bubbles can cause various symptoms, including joint pain, fatigue, dizziness, and, in severe cases, neurological issues or arterial gas embolism.