Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) affects roughly 1 in 1,000 people in the UK. It is most commonly found to affect those aged over 40 and has been widely associated with frequent fliers subjected to long periods of time in the same position.
Deep vein thrombosis is a type of blood clot caused by poor circulation that usually appears in the large veins of the leg that run between the calf and the thigh. Unfortunately, DVT has very few noticeable symptoms meaning it is difficult to diagnose.
Initial symptoms include pain and swelling in the leg. As the clot worsens, sufferers risk a pulmonary embolism – a serious condition that involves a piece of the clot breaking off and being carried into the lungs where it causes a more damaging blockage. The combination of DVT and pulmonary embolism is known as venous thromboembolism or VTE.
Who is at risk?
Deep vein thrombosis can affect anyone, but it is most prevalent in middle age and the elderly. Those who have suffered from heart disease, strokes or cancer are at a higher risk of developing DVT as these illnesses make the blood more prone to clotting.
The risk is also high in those who are overweight and obese, as well as pregnant women and those who have recently undergone surgery or hormone replacement treatment. Those with a family history of blood clots are also more likely to suffer from DVT.
DVT has been closely linked with long haul travel due to its close association with sitting still for long periods of time. DTV has earned the nickname “economy class syndrome” as a lack of leg room and an inability to stretch out or move frequently can contribute to the condition.
There are, however, a number of important steps that can be taken to help prevent DVT. Wearing compression socks (also known as flight socks) while travelling is a simple way to improve the circulation to your lower legs and feet, reducing the chances of a clot occurring.
Whenever possible, it is advised that passengers go for a short walk during a flight to keep the legs from being inactive for too long. A few simple exercises performed whilst sitting can also increase circulation. These include calf raises – raising your heels then lowering them repeatedly, whilst keeping your toes on the ground, then lowering them. This should then be followed by performing the reverse exercise – raising and lowering the toes repeatedly with heels on the floor. Try doing this at least every half an hour, if not more.
There are other easy tips you can try to stop clots from building up from general inactivity. Avoid restrictive clothing that could reduce circulation, try wearing something loose and comfortable. Be sure to keep hydrated and drink lots of water.
Hydration is also important to preventing clots. Drinking plenty of water and avoiding alcohol can help to support regular circulation. Sleeping pills are also not advisable for those at risk of DVT as this can affect blood pressure.
How to treat DVT
See your doctor if you suspect you have a clot. The earlier that attention is brought to DVT, the easier it is to find and treat through anticoagulant medicines such as heparin or warfarin
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