Physiological problems often occur when divers are exposed to the pressures of depth. However, some of the difficulties related to respiratory processes can occur at any time because of an inadequate supply of oxygen or inadequate removal of carbon dioxide from the tissue cells. Depth may modify these problems for the diver, but the basic difficulties remain the same. Fortunately, the diver has normal physiological reserves to adapt to environmental changes and is only marginally aware of small changes. The extra work of breathing reduces the diver's ability to do heavy work at depth, but moderate work can be done with adequate equipment at the maximum depths currently achieved in diving.
3-5.1 Oxygen Deficiency (Hypoxia). Oxygen deficiency, or hypoxia, is an abnormal deficiency of oxygen in the arterial blood that causes the tissue cells to be unable to receive sufficient oxygen to maintain normal function. Severe hypoxia will stop the normal function of any tissue cell in the body and will eventually kill it, but the cells of the brain tissue are by far the most susceptible to its effects.
The partial pressure of oxygen determines whether the amount of oxygen in a breathing medium is adequate. For example, air contains about 21 percent oxygen and thus provides an oxygen partial pressure of about 0.21 ata at the surface. This
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