Avoiding DVT When Traveling
It’s no secret that long flights and long drives can wreak havoc on the body’s circulatory system, especially for people at risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Extended periods of inactivity create prime conditions for blood clots to form in the legs. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to avoid DVT when traveling.
At Advanced Varicose Vein Treatments of Manhattan, we make every effort to ensure that our patients have all the information they need to prevent vein-related problems from getting worse. Dr. Ronald Lev, our founder and medical director, has extensive training and experience in treating DVT-related conditions. Read on to see what steps you can take to prevent DVT symptoms from putting a damper on your travels.
How Travel Can Cause Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep vein thrombosis causes blood clots within the deep veins of the body, such as those in your calves, thighs and pelvis. The body naturally causes clotting in areas it identifies as cut or injured. When the legs remain in a seated or hanging position, such as during long periods of travel, blood pooling can occur. For people susceptible to DVT, the body mistakes this pooling for an injury, which triggers the clotting response.
The blood in your legs circulates more slowly when the body is seated. With gravity fighting against the veins’ attempt to send blood back up the legs, blood can start to collect over time. Clotting in the legs can pose a considerable risk when clots start to move through the body’s circulatory system. If a clot should get lodged in the lungs, this could be fatal.
Signs of DVT to watch for include:
- Sudden swelling in the legs
- Reddish or bluish tint to the skin
- Enlarged veins
- Pain in the legs
- Warm sensation in the area of pain or swelling
- Problems breathing
Certain factors can place you at a higher risk of developing deep vein thrombosis. Not surprisingly, the risk increases as the body ages, though DVT can develop at any age. After the age of 40, the risk increases considerably. And of course, travel, such as long airplane rides and long drives also increases your risk.
Other risk factors to keep in mind include:
- Periods of bed rest
- Vein injuries, such as those that occur from a broken bone or some form of trauma
- Birth control pills
- Certain serious health issues, such as heart disease and cancer
- Being a smoker
Ways to Prevent DVT When Traveling
Movement & Exercises
While it can be difficult to move about when traveling, there are some movements and exercises you can do to boost circulation rates in the legs:
- Stand up and stretch your legs whenever possible, such as at rest stops
- If on a plane, make it a point to walk up and down the aisle every hour
- Recline your seat when possible
- When seated, press the balls of your feet against the floor to increase blood flow in the legs
- Keep the area in front of your legs clear of bags so the legs can stretch out
- Bend and straighten the legs, feet and toes every half hour
Compression stockings are commonly used to reduce swelling, especially after having surgery. They’re designed to cover the calf region and work by exerting pressure on the limb. The pressure helps promote blood circulation. If there’s a high to moderate risk of developing DVT, wearing compression stockings can help when traveling.
You can buy compression stockings at your pharmacy, but be sure to look for those labeled as “graduated” compression stockings. Graduated stockings exert the most pressure at the ankle and gradually decrease in pressure as they move up towards the knee. While stockings help, it’s still important to exercise the legs throughout the course of your trip.
If you’re at particularly high risk of developing deep vein thrombosis, it may be a good idea to discuss medication options with a vein specialist before you travel. Certain medications known as anticoagulants help thin the blood, making it less likely to clot. Dr. Lev of Advanced Varicose Vein Treatments of Manhattan has considerable experience in treating vein-related conditions and can recommend medication options that can help.
Precautionary Measures You Can Take
Anything you can do to support healthy blood circulation during your trip helps reduce the likelihood of DVT. Drinking plenty of fluids before and during travel is one thing you can do. Avoiding alcohol before and during your trip can also help. Sleeping pills are also a no-no since they’re designed to slow down the body’s systems. Once you reach your destination, be sure to take a short walk to get the circulation in your legs moving normally.
While taking all necessary precautions is always wise, if you suspect you’re experiencing symptoms of DVT or suffer discomfort from varicose veins, it may be time to consider talking with a specialist. When left untreated, vein-related conditions can cause serious health problems down the road. Dr. Ronald Lev is an expert in the field and is certified by the American Board of Venous and Lymphatic Medicine, which is what you want in a vein specialist. Call us today at 212-204-6501 to schedule a consultation with the doctor to discuss your treatment options.