Friday, April 21, 2017

The Bends and How to Avoid Them

Dr. Mickel Malek serves as a dentist at iSmile in Santa Cruz, California. Dr. Mickel Malek balances his professional responsibilities with an active personal life, which includes hobbies such as skydiving and scuba diving.

Although scuba diving can be a fascinating, rewarding hobby, it is not without some inherent dangers. One such danger is a condition called “the bends,” clinically known as decompression sickness. 

When a diver is deep underwater, heightened pressure causes inhaled nitrogen to become liquid. If the pressure around a diver decreases too quickly, this causes a buildup of nitrogen bubbles in the blood or tissue. Depending on where these bubbles collect, the resultant decompression sickness can cause symptoms ranging from dizziness and confusion to body pain and weakness in the limbs.

To avoid decompression sickness and its effects, the diver must first take care not to stay at his or her final depth longer than recommended. Surfacing must be gradual enough for the body to eliminate collected nitrogen safely. In some cases, the diver may also need to make regular decompression stops.

Divers should also take preliminary precautions and avoid drinking alcohol or exercising immediately before a dive. Exercise that occurs 12 hours or more before a dive, however, may be a preventive measure, and those that work out regularly are at a naturally lower risk. Hydrating may further reduce an individual’s risk, as it makes a higher quantity of blood available to process and eliminate nitrogen.