compressed air illness

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(caisson disease) a syndrome occurring in people working under high pressure in diving bells or at great depths with breathing apparatus. On return to normal atmospheric pressure nitrogen dissolved in the bloodstream expands to form bubbles, causing pain (the bends) and blocking the circulation in small blood vessels in the brain and elsewhere (decompression sickness). Pain, paralysis, and other features may be eliminated by returning the victim to a higher atmospheric pressure and reducing this gradually, so causing the bubbles to redissolve. Chronic compressed air illness may cause damage to the bones (see osteonecrosis), heart, and lungs.

Subjects: Medicine and Health.

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