Flying Far? Watch for DVT

Long trips spent in a seat can increase risk of clotting condition

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SUNDAY, March 9, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- If you're just taking a short trip, you probably don't have to worry about DVT.

However, if you're driving, flying or taking the bus or train cross-country, pay attention.

DVT is medical shorthand for deep vein thrombosis, a serious condition characterized by blood clots in the deep veins of the legs, according to the Venous Educational Institute of America. One in every 100 people who develop DVT dies, usually from a blood clot called a pulmonary embolus that travels from the legs to the lungs.

The condition is associated with all forms of long-distance travel, but airplane flights longer than five hours, where passengers remain seated and immobile, pose higher risks. Every year, DVT strikes about one in every 2,000 people in the general population, with the risk greatest in those over 40, those with a personal or family history of blood clots, those with cancer, blood diseases or heart conditions, and those who had recent surgery on the hips or knees.

The institute also says it occurs more frequently in pregnant women, those who have recently delivered, and those taking a contraceptive or hormone replacement therapy.

Signs of DVT include swelling, pain, tenderness and redness, especially at the back of the leg below the knee. It is different from the mild ankle swelling that many people get during long flights, and usually affects only one leg, the institute says.

Complaints may develop during a trip, but more commonly they occur hours or days later. Pain may be made worse by bending the foot upward towards the knee. In some cases, there are no symptoms at all, and problems become obvious only when a pulmonary embolus develops. Whenever DVT occurs, it requires urgent treatment.

Although DVT can be serious, even passengers at greatest risk can reduce their chances of getting it by performing simple leg exercises or walking about during long-distance travel, the institute says.

More information

Click on the Deep Vein Thrombosis Hub for more tips.

SOURCE: Venous Educational Institute of North America

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