Are You Predisposed to DCS?
Decompression Sickness (DCS) is a scary, and fortunately an uncommon event, in recreational diving. Most divers will never experience or know someone that will ever have DCS. And, even though it is rare, every diver should learn about it.
A great way to start is by talking with your Academy of Scuba dive professional. As your guide to the Scuba world, your dive professional can help educate you on the number of factors that can influence the likelihood of DCS, and great ways to avoid it.
ALTITUDE. Ascent to altitude after diving, either by flying or driving, increases decompression stress and divers needing to fly or drive should always adhere to published guidelines and tables for safety.
FITNESS. Poor physical and medical fitness may increase the risk of DCS and lower the diver’s ability to recover from an injury.
HISTORY. A diver’s previous history of DCS may indicate either a predisposition for the disease or behavior patterns that increase risk. Divers falling into this category should be especially careful to follow accepted dive protocols and standards to minimize future risk.
PFO. Patent foramen ovale (PFO) may increase the risk of DCS in divers developing significant bubble loads. Divers with this condition should plan their dives to keep bubble loads to a minimum.
In water factors:
BREATHING GAS. The type of breathing gas a diver chooses may affect the risk of DCS. The enriched air nitrox causes less nitrogen saturation for the same depth-time profile than air and thus reduces the risk of DCS. However, if used to extend the dive time, nitrox carries same risk of DCS.
EXERCISE. The amount of exertion during a dive can impact your chances of getting bent. Exertion at depth increases inert gas uptake and during the decompression phase can stimulate bubble formation, thus inhibiting inert gas elimination and increasing decompression risk.
THERMAL STRESS. The pattern and timing of thermal stress also plays a factor. Being warm during the bottom phase of a dive increases circulation which increases inert gas uptake and decompression risk. The best pattern for decompression safety is neutral (certainly not overheated), during the descent and bottom phase and warm during the ascent and stop phase.
Understanding DCS and its risk factors is an important step toward safer diving. This information was sourced from the Divers Alert Network. For more information take a DAN course with a DAN Instructor at the Academy of Scuba or visit DAN.ORG today.