Decompression sickness, artwork

Decompression sickness, artwork

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Credit: CLAUS LUNAU/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Decompression sickness. Artwork showing the physiological mechanisms involved in decompression sickness, also known as diving sickness or the bends. The pressure of the water causes gases breathed by divers to dissolve in large amounts in body tissues. Divers must return slowly to atmospheric pressure to avoid the effect of decompressing too fast. If they ascend too fast, the rapid pressure change reverses this process, forming bubbles that can kill by blocking the blood supply to the brain or heart. They also cause severe and crippling joint pain. The bubbles are shown here in the lungs, blood vessels, and the elbow and shoulder joints.

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