decompression sickness

noun

Definition of decompression sickness

: 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 altitudes 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

called also bends, caisson disease

Examples of decompression sickness in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web This allows aquanauts to easily slip out and conduct underwater research using saturation diving—a technique that reduces the risk of decompression sickness. Elissaveta M. Brandon, Smithsonian Magazine, "Jacques Cousteau’s Grandson Wants to Build the International Space Station of the Sea," 24 Aug. 2020 Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has long been used to treat scuba divers who develop decompression sickness. Washington Examiner, "Hyperbaric oxygen therapy may help save COVID-19 patients," 4 Aug. 2020 In some cases, the crew may pressurize the suit to help deter cases of decompression sickness. Jennifer Leman, Popular Mechanics, "Everything You Need to Know About NASA's New Spacesuits," 16 Oct. 2019 Hundreds have been stricken with the bends, the decompression sickness caused when nitrogen bubbles form in divers’ bodies. Washington Post, "Survivors from Honduras fishing boat sinking tell of fears," 5 July 2019 Because of the depth, technical divers must make several stops during their ascent from the bottom of the ocean to avoid decompression sickness. Neil Vigdor, New York Times, "U.S. Ship Sunk in World War II by German Sub Is Found Off Maine Coast," 19 July 2019 This was done to avoid decompression sickness, a condition similar to what scuba divers experience when changing air pressures too rapidly. Ellie Silverman, Washington Post, "Donald Peterson Sr., who spacewalked from the shuttle Challenger, dies at 84," 29 May 2018 And like Atiliano, hundreds have been stricken with the bends — decompression sickness caused when nitrogen bubbles form in divers’ bodies. Moises Castillo, The Seattle Times, "AP PHOTOS: Lobster divers risk injury, death in Honduras," 26 Dec. 2018 This in turn keeps them away from entering joints and blocking blood supply to organs, which can cause lethal decompression sickness, aka the bends. Matthew Berger, Smithsonian, "Dolphins Have a Mysterious Network of Veins That Could Be Key to Preventing the Bends," 26 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'decompression sickness.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of decompression sickness

1941, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of decompression sickness was in 1941

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Last Updated

7 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Decompression sickness.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/decompression%20sickness. Accessed 27 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for decompression sickness

decompression sickness

noun
variants: also decompression illness or decompression syndrome

Medical Definition of decompression sickness

: 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 altitudes in a poorly pressurized aircraft)

Note: Decompression sickness is marked chiefly by joint pain and is often accompanied in mild forms by fatigue and itching or burning of the skin frequently with discoloration. More serious forms may manifest with shortness of breath, chest pain, numbness, muscle weakness or paralysis, visual disturbances, incontinence, confusion, and hypovolemic shock. Individuals affected with decompression sickness are typically treated in a hyperbaric chamber.

called also bends, caisson disease

— see aeroembolism, choke entry 2 sense 2

More from Merriam-Webster on decompression sickness

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about decompression sickness

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