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Recognising DCI - the bends

Do I have a bend? | Signs and Symptoms |
So how do I know... | Why get treated... | Call for advice | Summary

Do I have a bend?

Recognising decompression illness (DCI) is the first step to recovery! The diver will often think of any reason for symptoms after a dive, other than the possibility of a bend. A good example is joint pain following a dive. The use of heavy scuba equipment and exertion getting in and out of the boat, or after a long walk up a beach, is often used to explain any joint pains.

DCI is a complicated medical problem and can manifest itself anywhere in the body at any time during or up to 48 hours after a dive. A diver doesn’t even have to do anything "wrong" to get a bend. If you have dived and are displaying signs or symptoms, or feeling generally "unwell" - you must consider the possiblity of DCI and seek medical advice.

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Signs and symptoms

Symptoms of the bends


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So how do you know if you have a bend?

Sometimes it will be obvious to you and others around you, or it may be very subtle and difficult to recognise. If you recognise any of the symptoms described after a dive then get medically assessed as soon as possible.

A hyperbaric doctor will make a clinical decision following examination. Any symptoms and the dive history will be reviewed and a series of tests undertaken to show changes in your neurological and behavioural reactions.

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Why get treated at all?

Untreated bends cause damage! Failure to treat promptly and appropriately may lead to permanent impairment.

Even a so called "mild" symptom, such as a skin rash or joint pain, could be indicating that your body has not adequately decompressed. More serious symptoms may well follow.

Immediate recompression is essential and will remove the excess gas load and promote the healing of damaged tissue. Delayed recompression will aid the healing of damaged tissue.

Where oxygen has been breathed on the surface, via a mask, symptoms may improve. If so, it is a sign that you should be assessed and medical advice sought as soon as possible. Re-entering the water with symptoms is not recommended.

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Call for advice

Calling for advice for the bends

Summary

DCI requires immediate treatment. Symptoms should not be ignored, seek specialist medical advice immediately.

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