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Should you be worried about deep-vein thrombosis (DVT)?

deep vein thrombosis
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Most people would be worried about a blood clot that could potentially become detached and cause something called an embolism in your lungs. But what are the chances that you develop DVT? Before we get around to that question, let’s explain what DVT is, and why it is so dangerous.

What is DVT?

First, let’s start with blood clots. Normally, blood clots are great. They help stop the bleeding when you’ve got a cut or laceration. When a blood clot happens without injury, however, you can have a problem, possibly a deadly one.

If a blood clot forms in a blood vessel, it can either restrict blood flow or stop it entirely. You don’t want either of these things to happen.

DVT occurs when a blood clot forms in a deep vein, often in the legs. A deep vein is what it sounds like – a vein that is far away from the surface level of your skin.

How do you get DVT?

Certain (rare) inherited conditions can increase your chances of getting DVT, such as an antithrombin deficiency, but if you are on this site, there is a good chance you want to know how you can get DVT as a traveler.

Prolonged periods of inactivity can also be a contributing factor to DVT. For travelers that are spending hours on buses, trains and planes, this could be a problem. But how big of a problem? What exactly are the chances that you will get DVT as a traveler?

According to the Lancet, one of the most respected medical journals in the world, symptomless DVT might occur in up to 10% of long-haul airline travellers. They came to this conclusion after conducting a study in which they surveyed a relatively small number of passengers. Furthermore, all the passengers were over 50 years of age – the higher you are in age, the greater your risk of developing DVT.

If you are relatively young, and you make a point to move a bit during long-haul flights, your risk for DVT is likely to be extremely low. If you are relatively young, and you are on a short-haul flight, you risk is most likely close to zero. Finally, if you are older, all is not lost. You just need to get moving while on those long-haul flights.

What can you do to prevent DVT

This is an easy one: get up and move. Airlines have a variety of exercises that you can do without getting up, such as ankle rolls, but you shouldn’t plan on staying in your seat for a long-haul flight. And if you’re feeling a bit lazy, drink a lot of water. This will force you to get up – you will need to pee – and it will keep you hydrated.

Finally, you can purchase compression stockings, which can stimulate blood flow in the lower extremities. See some compression socks on Amazon here.

DVT treatment

DVT is particularly dangerous, because it can cause a pulmonary embolism, which is a blood clot in the artery that carries blood from the heart to the lungs. First you have a blood clot in a deep vein in your leg. Then, it detaches and travels to your lungs. If it’s hung up in your pulmonary artery, well, I don’t think I need to explain why this is bad; you could die.

Treatment typically occurs with anticoagulants and thrombolytics to prevent further blood clots and dissolve the existing one(s). The quicker you can receive treatment, the better. If you have tenderness, pain and swelling in one of your legs, you should go to a clinic as soon as possible and have it checked out. As always, prevention is better than treatment! Follow our tips on staying active, and you should never have a run-in with DVT.

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