1 of 2

present tense third-person singular of bend entry 1

plural of bend entry 2, bend entry 3


2 of 2

plural noun

the bends
: a sometimes fatal condition that is caused by the release of gas bubbles typically of nitrogen as it leaves its dissolved form throughout the body upon a rapid decrease in barometric pressure (such as that experienced by the rapid ascent of a diver from a deep dive or the rapid ascent of a pilot to high altitude in a poorly pressurized aircraft) and that is marked chiefly by joint pain which may be accompanied in mild forms by fatigue and itching or burning of the skin and in more severe forms by shortness of breath, chest pain, paralysis, and confusion : decompression sickness
Human divers develop the bends when ascending too quickly from the deep, causing dissolved nitrogen in the bloodstream to form bubbles that can block blood vessels. The condition causes immediate pain and sometimes even death, but its necrotic aftermath in survivors often goes unnoticed until years later, when joints may collapse.Richard Monastersky

called also caisson disease

Word History

First Known Use

Plural Noun

1882, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of bends was in 1882

Dictionary Entries Near bends

Cite this Entry

“Bends.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jul. 2024.

Medical Definition


noun, plural in form but singular or plural in construction
: decompression sickness
also : intense joint pain occurring as a common manifestation of decompression sickness
usually used with the
a case of the bends

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