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All You Need to Know About Skin Bends After Scuba Diving

All You Need to Know About Skin Bends After Scuba Diving
Photo Credits: Jeff via Flickr

Scuba Diving is an ever enjoyable experience which has relatively low harmful side effects when compared to other activities in the same league. However, skin bends – a manifestation of decompression sickness (DCS) is a rather alert-worthy condition that many scuba divers experience.

It is also known as cutaneous DCS, a skin condition that looks like a rash which usually goes off on its own. But for those who are with sensitive skin, this can be turned into a situation which needs medical attention.

What are Skin Bends?

skin bends

Skin bends 

First of all, it is important that you properly understand what a skin bend is. Your skin has sensors for heat, cold, and many other sensations, and prolong exposure to an environment it is not comfortable in can lead to allergic or similar reactions erupting on the surface.

Since it is a skin condition, it can be varied from one person to another according to the PH levels of their skin, and sometimes the environmental conditions in which they engage in scuba diving.

There are 3 common types of skin bends that can be seen among the scuba divers.

1. Mild Rashes
2. Severe Rashes
3. Lymphatic DCS

Mild Rashes

Mild rashes appear usually on the torso area including the back, arms, chest and sometimes towards the buttocks. They do not look any different to a usual sunburn or a rash you can when you are out.

More often than not, these rashes disappear within a few hours. However, if you have sensitive skin and overlook this condition as a regular rash, it can sometimes go into serious levels if left untreated. 

Severe Rashes

The severe rashes or the second level of skin bends are called cutis marmorata, which forms red/purplish/bluish rashes around the same areas mild rashes would appear and they are likely to grow into other areas as well.

These patches of rashes usually give an itching and/or irritating sensation. While the rash itself may disappear with time, any damage that is done to the skin by itching will leave wounds and scars if they are not treated with care. 

Lymphatic DCS

The third and the most dramatic and risky version of skin bends is called Lymphatic DCS, which has the ability to negatively affect your lymph system which is directly connected to your immune system putting your health in danger.

Apart from the usual symptoms of skin bends, when it reaches this level, you can see a visible swelling of the skin along with increased burning or paining sensations. This is a very serious condition and requires immediate medical attention.

The importance of recognizing skin bends

While most people may dismiss a skin bend situation as a mere rash, it is extremely important that you understand the condition if you are a scuba diver for many reasons.

The severe levels of skin bends can cause breathing difficulties and other symptoms which can lead to even more serious injuries or situations. These unexpected events can put your life in danger since the environments connected with scuba diving are not always the safest.

The minor Cutaneous decompression sickness or what is common with many divers can also lead up to Neurological Decompression Sickness which is many levels higher in the risk factor.

Medical attention is much needed to be treated extensively for a period of time in order to be cured. 

Statistics suggest that those who experience skin bend situations more have a higher risk of having a heart condition called PFO (Patent Foramen Ovale).

Therefore if you are facing this more than your fellow divers, it is advisable that you should test yourself for PFO. It is a safe method to consider any rashes after scuba diving to be a skin bend until proven otherwise.

How To Treat Skin Bends

Once you notice that you are having a skin bending situation, you need to stop scuba diving until it clears away. If it is in the mild stage, it usually does not need any medication and you will be able to get back to your usual activities in a few days.

However, if you see severity forming in your rashes and you experience symptoms such as difficulty in breathing and changes in blood pressure you need to immediately consult your doctor or a skin specialist.

Preventing Skin Bends

Being hydrated is really important as a scuba driver to possibly avoid skin bends, however, there is no foolproof way of preventing skin bends. Therefore, the important thing is to understand the condition and take necessary actions if you ever face this situation.

The deeper you dive and/or you are not familiar with the environment, there can be a higher risk of getting skin bends. There is also a high chance that you might never experience as well since most scuba divers engage in the activity for long without even facing a skin bend situation even once.

It is, however, something that you should be aware of and take seriously at all times.

Your Turn..

Have you experienced skin bends after diving?
Share your experiences in the comments below. 

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