When you think of blood clots and traveling, you probably think of deep vein thrombosis brought on by air travel. But did you know that any journey of four hours or more, whether by air, car, bus, coach, train or boat, carries the same risk of DVT and blood clots?
What is Deep Vein Thrombosis?
Deep vein thrombosis is the name given to a blood clot in a deep vein, most typically in the leg. These clots can occur at any time, but we are particularly at risk during travel because we are seated and immobile for extended periods of time, often with restricted leg room.
Sometimes, the clot will spontaneously resolve itself and you may be none the wiser other than some mild discomfort. However, the danger occurs when the clot breaks free and travels through the bloodstream, where it may eventually block the flow of blood to your lungs—a condition known as a pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal in around one out of three cases.
What are the Risk Factors for DVT?
There are a number of factors which put you more at risk for developing a deep vein blood clot. Being over 40 and/or obese increases the risk, as does use of the contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy.
Pregnant women are also at increased risk, due to increased pressure on the leg veins, and for this reason those with an immobile leg (such as a leg in a cast) are also at greater risk. Varicose veins are also a risk factor, as they show that there is already venous disease and weakness present. Finally, having had a previous clot or a family history of blood clots further increases your risk of developing a blood clot.
What are the Symptoms of DVT?
In approximately 50% of cases, there are no obvious symptoms of deep vein thrombosis. However, you may notice:
- Swelling of one leg when compared to the other
- Redness of the leg when compared to the other, or a blue tinge
- Tenderness you can’t explain
- Skin on your leg which is warm to the touch
- Sometimes pain when you stand or walk
If you notice these symptoms having been immobile for a long period of time, you should seek medical assistance as soon as possible.
The symptoms of a pulmonary embolism include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Coughing up blood
- Fast heartbeat
- Chest pain which gets worse with deep breath
This combination of symptoms is a medical emergency.
Easy Ways to Help Prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis While Traveling
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to ease the risk of developing a blood clot while traveling.
- First and foremost, seek treatment for any varicose veins well ahead of your intended travel date. At a vascular center like ours in Broward and Miami Beach, you can have fast, fuss free varicose vein treatment which will lessen your future risk of DVT
- While traveling, get up and walk about as often as you can. If you are confined to your seat, try to do some foot exercises and stretches.
- Wear loose fitting clothing, and avoid alcohol, but do drink plenty of water while traveling.
- Do not sit with your legs crossed.
- Consider wearing compression stockings if you are at significant risk of a clot.
If you are going on a long journey and are concerned about the risk of blood clots, contact a professional vascular center for advice on potential treatment for any pre-existing venous conditions before you travel. Although many instances of DVT come and go un-noticed, the potentially fatal nature of this condition means that it’s worth taking very seriously indeed.