Severe DCI is easy to identify because the signs and symptoms are pretty obvious and a patient will clearly be in need of immediate treatment in a recompression chamber.
However, In many cases of decompression illness the symptoms are only minor, such as: joint pain, numbness or tingling and muscular weakness. Often these symptoms are initially put down to overexertion, lifting tanks, the cold or badly fitting equipment and clothing. This DCI denial is considered as one of the first symptoms of decompression illness and often leads to a delay in seeking medical advice. Sometimes these symptoms remain mild and go away by themselves, however, they often continue to persist or even increase in severity and medical advice will need to be sought.
Severe cases of DCI:
A permanent residual handicap may result, such as: bladder dysfunction; sexual dysfunction or muscular weakness, to name a few.
Cases of neurological DCI:
The spinal cord may remain permanently damaged, the symptoms of which may vary considerably for different individuals. In these cases if a patient suffers from a subsequent bout of decompression illness the chances of a full recovery may reduce.
Cases of DCI with joint pains:
When joint pains remain untreated, there is a possibility that small areas of bone may get damaged, this is called osteonecrosis. Usually, this will not cause symptoms, unless there are a number of bouts of untreated DCI. If this happens, there may be enough damage to cause the bone to become brittle, for joints to collapse or become arthritic.