The bends describes the divers’ disease or condition known as decompression sickness (DCS).
Pioneer divers working underwater over 100 years ago called it ‘caisson disease’.
At that time little was known about the causes and treatments of underwater diving hazards and decompression diving.
The bends occurs when dissolved gases - usually nitrogen - come out of solution following a divers’ over-exposure to underwater pressure and speedy ascent to sea level.
Rapid depressurization allows the gas to form bubbles which travel through the body. Gas bubbles migrate through the blood stream producing disease-like symptoms such as skin rash, joint pain and paralysis.
The most severe attack of the bends can cause death.
Preventing the bends means diving within accepted no-decompression exposure limits (NDL’s) and regulating a safe ascent rate.
Dive tables and dive computers track divers’ exposure times and ascent speeds but this does not guarantee that following the guidelines will prevent an attack of decompression sickness.
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