Munson Health
Decompression Sickness

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by Badash M

(Caisson Disease; Altitude Sickness; Dysbarism; The Bends; DCS)



The less severe type of DCS is called DCS I. It primarily results in inflammation of muscles, joints, and tendons, resulting in pain and swelling. This is commonly referred to as the bends. Although pain may occur anywhere in the body, it is most common in or near an arm or leg joint. The pain may become more severe over time. Itching, skin mottling, weakness, and fatigue also occur.
  • Stomach pain
  • Back pain
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Vision problems
  • Vertigo
  • Chest pain and severe coughing
  • Shock
If an individual dives occupationally and has regular exposure to increased pressure, a mild, chronic case of the bends may occur without detection. Over time, this can result in deterioration of affected joints and bones.
Progressive Joint Damage
Damaged Joint
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American College of Hyperbaric Medicine

Divers Alert Network

Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society



Capital Health Nova Scotia

Health Canada



Altitude-induced decompression sickness. Federal Aviation Administration website. Available at: Accessed February 1, 2013.

Decompression illness: what is it and what is the treatment? Divers Alert Network website. Available at: Accessed January 31, 2008.

Decompression sickness. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated October 18, 2012. Accessed February 1, 2013.

3/31/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance Gertsch JH, Corbett B, et al. Altitude sickness in climbers and efficacy of NSAIDs trial (ASCENT): randomized, controlled trial of ibuprofen versus placebo for prevention of altitude illness. Wilderness Environ Med. 2012 Dec;23(4):307-315.


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