What Is Air Embolism?

What is air embolism?
An air or gas embolism is a bubble that becomes trapped in a blood vessel and blocks it. It is caused by one or more bubbles of air or other gas in the circulatory system. Air can escape from the lungs into the blood vessels (arterial gas embolism) or nitrogen bubbles can form in the blood vessels (decompression sickness).

The condition mostly happens in a scuba diver who:
  • surfaces too quickly
  • spends too long underwater
  • holds their breath as they come up
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of an air embolism after diving may include:
  • joint or muscle pain
  • low blood pressure, which may cause dizziness
  • an irregular heartbeat
  • breathlessness and fast breathing
  • blurred vision
  • chest pain
  • strong feelings of anxiety
  • itchy skin
  • a blue tinge to the skin (cyanosis)
  • bloody froth from the mouth
  • paralysis or weakness, possibly of one or more limbs
  • fits
  • loss of consciousness
Air embolism can cause serious and potentially fatal conditions, such as a stroke or heart attack. Please call and ask for an ambulance if you or someone you’re with feels unwell after scuba diving.
Keywords: air embolism



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