<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

Narrow range of atmospheric pressure

Pressure is a force exerted by a substance that is in contact with another substance. Atmospheric pressure is pressure exerted by the mixture of gases (primarily nitrogen and oxygen) in the Earth’s atmosphere. Although you may not perceive it, atmospheric pressure is constantly pressing down on your body. This pressure keeps gases within your body, such as the gaseous nitrogen in body fluids, dissolved. If you were suddenly ejected from a space ship above Earth’s atmosphere, you would go from a situation of normal pressure to one of very low pressure. The pressure of the nitrogen gas in your blood would be much higher than the pressure of nitrogen in the space surrounding your body. As a result, the nitrogen gas in your blood would expand, forming bubbles that could block blood vessels and even cause cells to break apart.

Atmospheric pressure does more than just keep blood gases dissolved. Your ability to breathe—that is, to take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide—also depends upon a precise atmospheric pressure. Altitude sickness occurs in part because the atmosphere at high altitudes exerts less pressure, reducing the exchange of these gases, and causing shortness of breath, confusion, headache, lethargy, and nausea. Mountain climbers carry oxygen to reduce the effects of both low oxygen levels and low barometric pressure at higher altitudes ( [link] ).

Harsh conditions

This photo shows Mount Everest as seen from a distance. It is a large, pyramid-shaped, craggy peak with many smaller snow-covered peaks in the foreground. The peak of Mount Everest is partially occluded by clouds.
Climbers on Mount Everest must accommodate extreme cold, low oxygen levels, and low barometric pressure in an environment hostile to human life. (credit: Melanie Ko/flickr)

Homeostatic imbalances

Decompression sickness

Decompression sickness (DCS) is a condition in which gases dissolved in the blood or in other body tissues are no longer dissolved following a reduction in pressure on the body. This condition affects underwater divers who surface from a deep dive too quickly, and it can affect pilots flying at high altitudes in planes with unpressurized cabins. Divers often call this condition “the bends,” a reference to joint pain that is a symptom of DCS.

In all cases, DCS is brought about by a reduction in barometric pressure. At high altitude, barometric pressure is much less than on Earth’s surface because pressure is produced by the weight of the column of air above the body pressing down on the body. The very great pressures on divers in deep water are likewise from the weight of a column of water pressing down on the body. For divers, DCS occurs at normal barometric pressure (at sea level), but it is brought on by the relatively rapid decrease of pressure as divers rise from the high pressure conditions of deep water to the now low, by comparison, pressure at sea level. Not surprisingly, diving in deep mountain lakes, where barometric pressure at the surface of the lake is less than that at sea level is more likely to result in DCS than diving in water at sea level.

In DCS, gases dissolved in the blood (primarily nitrogen) come rapidly out of solution, forming bubbles in the blood and in other body tissues. This occurs because when pressure of a gas over a liquid is decreased, the amount of gas that can remain dissolved in the liquid also is decreased. It is air pressure that keeps your normal blood gases dissolved in the blood. When pressure is reduced, less gas remains dissolved. You have seen this in effect when you open a carbonated drink. Removing the seal of the bottle reduces the pressure of the gas over the liquid. This in turn causes bubbles as dissolved gases (in this case, carbon dioxide) come out of solution in the liquid.

The most common symptoms of DCS are pain in the joints, with headache and disturbances of vision occurring in 10 percent to 15 percent of cases. Left untreated, very severe DCS can result in death. Immediate treatment is with pure oxygen. The affected person is then moved into a hyperbaric chamber. A hyperbaric chamber is a reinforced, closed chamber that is pressurized to greater than atmospheric pressure. It treats DCS by repressurizing the body so that pressure can then be removed much more gradually. Because the hyperbaric chamber introduces oxygen to the body at high pressure, it increases the concentration of oxygen in the blood. This has the effect of replacing some of the nitrogen in the blood with oxygen, which is easier to tolerate out of solution.

The dynamic pressure of body fluids is also important to human survival. For example, blood pressure, which is the pressure exerted by blood as it flows within blood vessels, must be great enough to enable blood to reach all body tissues, and yet low enough to ensure that the delicate blood vessels can withstand the friction and force of the pulsating flow of pressurized blood.

Chapter review

Humans cannot survive for more than a few minutes without oxygen, for more than several days without water, and for more than several weeks without carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Although the body can respond to high temperatures by sweating and to low temperatures by shivering and increased fuel consumption, long-term exposure to extreme heat and cold is not compatible with survival. The body requires a precise atmospheric pressure to maintain its gases in solution and to facilitate respiration—the intake of oxygen and the release of carbon dioxide. Humans also require blood pressure high enough to ensure that blood reaches all body tissues but low enough to avoid damage to blood vessels.

Questions & Answers

what are the various types of white blood cells
Andy Reply
what is cpr in first aid
Andy
various whiteblood cells includes Granulocytes (neutrophils,basophils ana eosinophils) and Agranulocytes (monocytes and lymphocytes)
Waziri
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (cpr) is an emergency procedure. Uses chest compressions with artificial ventilation in an effort to preserve brain function until further measures are taken to restore blood circulation and breathing in a person who is in cardiac arrest.
Jeremiah
respiration is not just taking in of oxygen and bringing out Co2. that is called INHALATION AND EXHALATION. BUT RESPIRATION IS THE BREAKDOWN OF LARGE MOLECULES OF GLUCOSE OR OTHER SUBSTRATES IN THE PRESENCE OF OXYGEN AND SUBSEQUENT REMOVAL OF WASTE PRODUCT
Osuji Reply
why study anatomy?
esther Reply
to know the detailed functioning of the internay body organs
Jam
we study anatomy to know about the structure of the organs which in turn help to study physiology which is the knowledge related to function of the vital organ,and when we know the normal functionality we can understand the abnormalities in that organ,and the study of disease is called pathology
Lubabah
why is it so hard to know the spelling and words
Sawmtei
they were made so that only the best and thr brightest would understand.
Senen
thank you
esther
to know the internal structure of the human body and how it function
Jaafar
whats antonmy
Jaan Reply
the study of structure and function of internal body parts
Jam
is a branch of biology which describes the structures of the body and relationship from one part to another
esther
what is anatomy and physiology
mwitwa Reply
Anatomy is the study of structures of the body
Zunehri
Physiology the study functions of the body
Zunehri
anatomy is study of structure of body nd physiology is study of function of body.
PRIYANKA
anatomy is the study of internal body structures and physiology is the functioning of these structures in the body
Jam
what is lungs
Shipon Reply
it an organ found in our thoracic cavity
Richard
lungs are spongy organs where our respiration takesplace
Maryama
Lungs is a spongy organs located in the chest , is an a primary organs of respiration in human body and other Animals
Zunehri
lungs thorex me present hote hai ye organ hai and gas exchange (o2,co2 exchange)inka inka function hai.
PRIYANKA
lungs ka function hai
OM
pls am a student I don't know
Mavis
main function is respiration
faheem
respiration is the taking ing of oxygen by the body tissues and the removal of carbondioxide from the body tissues
Jam
what is heart beat,?
Naqeeb Reply
heart beat is the process briting
Mavis
what functions of heart
Muthu Reply
To circulate the blood
Arshad
it pump blood to the lungs
Laura
very twiest
Shipon
what should be the nature of cell
Kashish Reply
Cells die and reproduce
Nejat
knuckle of the middle finger
James Reply
because of the gases (nitrogen, oxygen)
Nejat
what is ketone bodies
Jaan
why the heart is protected with that sac
Joshua Reply
To prevent collision with the lungs, lubricates the heart, protects the heart from infection in the event a peripheral organ is effected, and stabilizes the heart within the mediastinum.
Jeremiah
This app should be updated too much as there is very little information for some topics.I hope you will consider my information....
aman Reply
adenohypophysis is made up of what type of cells and what is the name of those cells?
Mannu Reply
whatpassesthroughmaleovale
armstrong Reply
motor root of the trigeminal nerve
Vandana
what is the nervous system about
Joshua
what passes through foramen ovale?
Farah Reply

Get the best Anatomy & Physiology course in your pocket!





Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Anatomy & Physiology' conversation and receive update notifications?

Ask