Decompression sickness

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Two novice scuba divers are diving in Gozo island to the depth of 30 meters. Since they are just starting with scuba diving, the beauties of the underwater world made them forget about checking their valves and our divers are now forced into an emergency ascend without the decompression stop. Back on the surface, one of them - Luisa (28) - complains about overall weakness, excessive exhaustion and flu-like joint pain. The other diver - Antonio (35) - is pale, having trouble breathing and complains about tingling fingers and knees pain. What is the most likely cause of the symptoms described?

Decompression sickness (DCS)

Correct answer

Good job! All of the symptoms mentioned can mean lots of diagnoses but in connection with scuba diving it will most likely be the decompression sickness. DCS arises after time spent in a high pressure enviroment which increases the ammount of inert gas in tissues which is released in the form of bubbles after a quick drop of the surrounding pressure. This can cause the following problems - fatigue, skin itch, muscle and joint pain, skin discoloration, paresthesia, dyspnoea, nausea or even unconsciousness.


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Dehydration caused by a longer dive

Wrong answer

The symptoms described should not be considered as a simple dehydration under given conditions even though it is true that scuba diving causes light dehydration of the organism. Every responsible diver should drink plenty of water on the day of the dive.


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Acute myocardial infarction in Antonio, exhaustion in Luisa

Wrong answer

Under given circumstances we should think of another possible dissease.


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Simple flu which got worse due to the dive

Wrong answer

Symptoms described could mean worsening of a preexisting disease (diving is a physically demanding sport). Under no cicumstances should they, however, be downplayed as they can mean a new and dangerous dissease. Any responsible diver should also know not to go diving with a flu.


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