Chapter 6 : The dangers of deep vein thrombosis

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition where a blood clot forms in a deep vein, most commonly in your thighs and the lower area of your legs:

This happens when blood thickens and clumps together and if a blood clot forms and breaks away, you have a potentially very serious problem. If the blood clot breaks away in this manner, it is known as an embolus which can then move to your lungs so that you suffer a pulmonary embolism.

Alternatively, it can travel to your brain in which case you suffer a stroke so in either situation, you have a very serious medical problem that can be fatal that could be caused by a deep vein thrombosis.

The major cause of deep vein thrombosis is inactivity which leads to a pooling of blood in your legs. The inactivity that caused the blood to collect in your legs also allows it to grow thicker and coagulate which increases the possibility of suffering a DVT.

This is one of the reasons why I recommend that you do not take sleeping pills when on the plane as the deep sleep induced by pills leads to an almost complete lack of movement which can encourage the blood pooling effect.

Fortunately, the answer to DVT is remarkably simple for most people.

Get up and have a walk about the plane every couple of hours or follow one of the major airline exercise programs that are offered by the likes of United Airlines and most of the other major carriers. Pilates is something else that you might consider doing because once again, there are quite a few gentle stretching and bending exercises that will significantly reduce your chances of suffering a deep vein thrombosis.

Of course, you might not believe that you are at risk from DVT, but the fact is, everyone who flies and chooses to stay in their seat throughout the duration of the flight is at risk.

However, if you a female who is currently undergoing hormone replacement therapy or you use oral contraceptives, these may cause your blood to be thicker than normal, which obviously increases the risk of DVT. If therefore you fall into either of these categories, you should talk to your doctor or medical specialist to discuss and analyze the options available to you.

If you are overweight or obese, the chances of suffering a DVT are significantly increased as is the risk if you are aged over 60. If you have recently been treated for cancer or are currently being treated, you have to apply extra care once again because your risks are increased as well.

There are several signs that he might have a deep vein thrombosis, including swelling in your leg or along the ‘line’ of your vein, pain or tenderness in your leg, or possibly increased heat in a certain part of your leg. All of these might indicate a DVT which you should immediately report to the cabin staff.

Deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms need treatment as soon as humanly possible as both are very serious life-threatening conditions. Hence, there is not a moment to lose when it comes to seeking attention. There are usually medical staff available at most major international airports, so you would be wise to take advantage of the services they offer if for any reason you suspect a DVT.

Of course, as with any medical condition, prevention is far more attractive option than curing it, and given that you can reduce the chances of suffering a deep vein thrombosis by a significant margin simply by exercising whilst flying, it is something that you should definitely make a big effort to do.

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