Health and Medicine Question #387

Karla, a 11 year old female from the Internet asks on June 2, 1998,

What causes the bends?

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The answer

Barry Shell answered on June 2, 1998

"The bends", or decompression sickness, is something that can happen to scuba divers. The deeper divers go, the greater their chances are of getting the bends. The bends are caused when gases, which dissolve in the blood and body tissues in the high pressure of greater depths, emerge as bubbles as a diver ascends towards lesser pressure. This causes pain in the joints and makes the sufferer "bend" in pain. The key is for the diver to minimize the time spent at depth, and to allow enough time to reach the surface, coming up very slowly. Deep divers make "decompression stops" at given depths, according to rules set out by the US Navy. These stops allow the blood to gradually clear itself of high pressure gases. Recreational divers can avoid the bends by staying above 60 feet of depth.


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