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Illness

Decompression Illness Denial

The risk of DCI exists with each diver and each dive no matter if it’s a short no decompression dive to 60 feet (18 m) or a staged decompression dive to 200 feet (61 m). Even if you follow all of the rules, your computer or dive tables, your decompression schedule, and ascend properly, DCI can still take place. In some ways, DCI is a statistical inevitability, something ever diver may have to deal with at some time.
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Symptoms of Decompression Illness

DCI is typically classified into two categories: Type I DCI and Type II DCI. Type I DCI is considered pain only and other mild symptoms, where Type II DCI is considered central nervous system involvement and very serious. Sometimes it’s very difficult to determine what type of DCI it is unless you’re professionally trained in diving medicine. However, it’s very important that you recognize DCI symptoms even if you’re not sure what category they fall under. Here is a breakdown of the symptoms you can expect for Type I and Type II DCI.

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Decompression Illness

Photo: Steve May

Decompression illness (DCI), also known as “the bends” or caisson disease, is a illness that occurs when bubbles form in your body’s tissues because of an excessive quantity of inert gas (nitrogen or helium) due to inadequate decompression following the exposure to increased pressure. During a dive, your body’s tissues absorb nitrogen or helium from your breathing gas in proportion to the surrounding pressure. As long as you remain at pressure (depth), the inert gas does not present any problems. If the pressure is reduced too quickly, from a rapid ascent for example, the inert gas can come out of solution and form bubbles in your body’s tissues and bloodstream. Once bubbles are formed they may or may not produce symptoms based on their eventual growth. When symptoms occur, they relate to the area in the body where the bubble is located.

DCI can occur as a result of violating no decompression limits and not properly decompressing during your ascent, ascending too rapidly on a no decompression dive, pushing dive tables to their limits, skipping or shortening decompression stops during a staged decompression dive, or pushing the limits on tables or dive computers when making repetitive dives. But, DCI can also occur even when you follow all of the recommended guidelines and safety factors.

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Prevention of Decompression Illness

Preventing DCI one hundred percent is not probable or realistic. DCI can occur even when you follow all of the guidelines and safety factors and your day to day body physiology can change, which can increase or decease your susceptibility of getting DCI.

There are a number of things you can do to limit the risks of getting DCI:
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Predisposing Factors of Decompression Illness

There are a number of predisposing factors that can lead to decompression illness even when all of the appropriate guidelines and safety factors are followed. Some factors are at the mercy of the environment, such as water temperature and elevation. Other factors are physiological and pertain to each individual person, which can change from day to day and the techniques you use in the execution of your dive, ascent, and decompression.
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