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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

why are cells small
Hajiahamdy Reply
what is the change if take normal water in our body
Algur Reply
What are variations in physiology
John Reply
pls let's talk about d difference between mitosis and meiosis
olatemiju Reply
through remodeling and formation of new bones
Amoako Reply
please what is it
Monica
what is blood pressure
HALLELUYAH
what is blood pressure reading
HALLELUYAH
sketch and label blood vessels
HALLELUYAH
veins is........
KING
draw the male reproductive system
Jeremaih Reply
hello am new here
Pednyin
how life
Jeremaih
join
Hajiahamdy
Explain how different foods can affect metabolism
Abraham Reply
what is Endocrine system?
Islam Reply
which secrete hormones and other products direct into the blood
Aadi
Cell is basic, structural and functional unit of life
Kabuja Reply
The cell is the structural and functional unit of all living organisms, and is sometimes called the "building block of life." Some organisms, such as bacteria, are unicellular, consisting of a single cell.
Br_
hi am new here..wish to join you in this conversation
Rachel
welcome Rachel am Brianito
hingi
hey
HALLELUYAH
can some one help
HALLELUYAH
what is the basic function of the lymphatic system
HALLELUYAH
The other main function is that of defense in the immune system. Lymph is very similar to blood plasma: it contains lymphocytes. It also contains waste products and cellular debris together with bacteria and proteins. Associated organs composed of lymphoid tissue are the sites of lymphocyte producti
Adnan
the function of lymphatic system are 1fluid balance 2 lipid absorption and 3 defence
Sidra
destroyed microognism
Usman
lymphatic systems main function is to transport lymph
Colleen
may i know the meaning of infestation of parasite?
Aminiely
Which of the following accurately describe external respirations
Robin Reply
different between anatomy and physiology
Samwel Reply
anatomy is the study of STRUCTURE of the body while physiology is the study of the function of the part of the body
Gborgbor
Anatomy deals with the structure and parts of the body while physiology is the function of the the body parts
Archie
not understanding what is a cell
Kesa Reply
its the fundamental unit of life or its the primary step in which two or more cell combine to form a tissue .
Sidra
Is the smallest structural and functional unit of life
Aliyu
cell is the basic you unit of life
Esther
what is osteomalàcia
Ellen Reply
what is hydroxyapitate
Ellen
Hydroxyapatite, also called hydroxylapatite, is a naturally occurring mineral form of calcium apatite with the formula Ca₅(PO₄)₃, but it is usually written Ca₁₀(PO₄)₆(OH)₂ to denote that the crystal unit cell comprises two entities. Hydroxyapatite is the hydroxyl endmember of the complex apatite gro
Br_
..up
Br_
what's the best way to memorize the terms and what it does
Kesa
osteomalacia is where inorganic or mineral which is calcium and phosphorus are removed from a bone....this will make the bone become flexible n in children is called ricket
Rashida
wat work does anatomy do in the hospital and can they get work fast after finishing
SULE Reply
what is the meaning of suture?
praba Reply
it is a protective layer of brain
Madhureddy
it is a kind of non movable joint present between skull bones
neha
suture is an example of fibrous joint and is synatrosys(is not movable)
Rashida
a junction between the sclerites of an imsect's body
Aadi

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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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