By Jeffery P. Schoonover, M.D., FAAFP, RVT, RPVI
Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is the formation of a blood clot inside a vein deep in the body, especially in the legs. DVT may not have any symptoms but can cause pain, swelling and warmth in the leg. If untreated, people with DVT are at risk for developing a pulmonary embolism in which the blood clot breaks away and travels to the lung, which can be fatal. Approximately 600,000 people in the United States have a pulmonary embolism each year and more than 10 percent of them die from it. Pulmonary embolism occurs equally in men and women and doubles for each 10 years after age 60.
Vacations are a particularly dangerous time for DVT because of extended travel on an airplane, car, or train, can increase your risk. This is especially important if you have recently had surgery, are pregnant, overweight, smoke, or have a history of blood clots.
Risk of DVT should not keep you from traveling this summer if you take these simple steps.
- Studies have shown that wearing compression stockings during a trip can significantly reduce your risk for DVT. These stockings help increase circulation in your legs. Make sure to purchase medical grade stockings, fitted by a trained professional.
- Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water and avoid caffeine or alcohol because both are dehydrating.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothes during the trip.
- Get out of your seat every hour or two. Walk up and down the aisle. In an airplane it is helpful to request an aisle seat so it is easier to stretch out and move around. In a car, stop at a gas station or rest area and walk around for a few minutes. When you walk, the muscles of the legs squeeze the veins and move blood to the heart.
- Move every half hour or so while you are seated. Rotate your ankles, draw circles on the ground with your toes, flex your feet and toes and raise your legs slightly and hold them in the air for a few seconds.
- Avoid crossing your legs while you are seated because it prevents circulation and can cause blood to pool in the veins.
Taking these simple actions will decrease your risk for DVT and give you a happier, healthier vacation.