Decompression Sickness And the Immune System

It is known that bubbles within the body trigger an immune system response. For this reason, immune-suppressant drugs are often administered during hyperbaric treatment for decompression sickness.  The immune system reacts to bubbles as it would to any foreign body; such as a virus or bacteria. That reaction is as follows:

  1. When bubbles occur in the body they will attract blood proteins, as those proteins make contact with bubbles they change in molecular shape and solubility (denaturation).
  2. The denatured protein is recognized by the body and the body diverts white blood cells to ‘attack’ the bubble, whilst also releasing histamines to dilate blood vessels in the area (local inflammation) that aids the travel of the white blood cells to where they are needed.
  3. The release of histamine also causes the surrounding blood vessel lining to become sticky so that white blood cells surrounding the bubble will ‘stick’ in place and trap the bubble. This process is known as margination.
  4. The process of margination also causes cells in the blood vessel wall (enothelium cells) to separate and allow fluids, white blood cells and the bubble/s  to leave the blood stream enter the surrounding tissues.  This not only thickens the blood, but a sufficient loss of fluid from the blood stream into the tissues can cause shock.
  5. The separation of enothelium cells causes an additional reaction in body; as it triggers a release of platelets into the area. These platelets combine with collegen to form a clot in the tissue around the bubble.  Platelets also release serotonin that counters the effect of histamine and constricts blood flow to the area.

When the bubble is sufficiently large, this process is intense and noticeable in the body; where the swelling and inflammation cause pain or limit local body function; or changes in blood chemistry cause rash or illness.  If significantly intense, they become symptoms of decompression sickness.

However, if the bubbles are small in size, this immune-response may be sufficiently insignificant; so as to remain symptomatically unnoticeable to the victim. But if the occurrence of micro-bubbles is, nonetheless,  high in frequency, then there may be widespread low-intensity immune-reaction throughout the body.  A sub-clinical reaction, but a reaction that does have an impact on the individual.

That impact may present as a general fatigue, weariness, sleepiness, reduced vitality, decreased energy or just a sense of being under par physically or mentally.


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Originally posted 2015-09-07 22:13:35. Republished by Blog Post Promoter