Flight risk

Deep vein throm­bo­sis can af­fect all ages, says

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - This Week - Lucy Mad­dox

IT’S sum­mer holiday sea­son and while jet­ting off some­where sunny is all about fun and re­lax­ation, planes can come with their own set of health risks. The first to spring to mind is deep vein throm­bo­sis, a blood clot that de­vel­ops in a deep vein, usu­ally in the leg. It can oc­cur on dry land, but is as­so­ci­ated with fly­ing, mainly long-haul flights, due to sit­ting in one po­si­tion for so long.

Pro­longed sit­ting, say ex­perts, adds to the static load on our mus­cu­loskele­tal sys­tem, and pre­vents ef­fec­tive cir­cu­la­tion of blood through your body. How­ever, surely this is some­thing you only need to worry about once you reach a cer­tain age? Ac­tu­ally no. Deep vein throm­bo­sis af­fects younger peo­ple too. Ac­tu­ally, while it is more com­mon in older age groups, it af­fects around one in ev­ery 1,000 peo­ple, mostly over-40s. It can af­fect younger peo­ple, and there are some spe­cific risk fac­tors that may ap­ply to younger women.

The chances of de­vel­op­ing a blood clot on a flight are slim, so there’s no need to panic.

Vas­cu­lar ex­pert pro­fes­sor Mark White­ley, says: “While it’s true that as you age and be­come less ac­tive you have a slightly higher risk of blood clots, some of the pa­tients we see are in their 20s and 30s. While women have an in­creased chance of de­vel­op­ing blood clots due to lifestyle fac­tors such as preg­nancy, or tak­ing birth con­trol, re­search has found men have a higher rate of de­vel­op­ing deep vein throm­bo­sis nat­u­rally.”

The con­tra­cep­tive pill or preg­nancy hor­mones can put you at a higher risk. Preg­nancy can be as­so­ci­ated with a greater risk, due to the weight of the baby re­duc­ing blood flow to the legs. Plus, hor­mones and blood com­po­si­tion change dur­ing preg­nancy, which can in­flu­ence clot­ting.

There are warn­ings that the com­bined con­tra­cep­tive pill can in­crease the risk of deep vein throm­bo­sis due to the lev­els of oe­stro­gen in the pill, and oe­stro­gen can cause the blood to clot more eas­ily. How­ever, not all birth-con­trol pills are linked with any in­creased risk, and cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als may still be more likely to de­velop a clot, such as peo­ple who are over­weight or have a his­tory of blood clots.

Hav­ing a con­di­tion or treat­ment that can cause your blood to clot more eas­ily, such as can­cer (and che­mother­apy and ra­dio­ther­apy), heart and lung dis­ease or in­flam­ma­tory bowel dis­ease, should also be con­sid­ered as fac­tors in the pos­si­bil­ity of de­vel­op­ing the ill­ness. If you’re con­cerned or un­sure, speak to your GP for ad­vice.

Warn­ing signs can in­clude pain, swelling, ten­der­ness, a heavy ache in the af­fected area and warm, red skin. Of­ten the pain can be­come more se­vere when you bend your foot up­wards to­wards the knee.

If you no­tice any pos­si­ble symp­toms, it’s im­por­tant to get it checked with a med­i­cal pro­fes­sional as soon as pos­si­ble. If a blood clot is di­ag­nosed, you may need an­ti­co­ag­u­lant medicine to re­duce fur­ther clot­ting and stop any ex­ist­ing clots get­ting big­ger.

Com­pres­sion socks can help speed up blood flow in the veins, which can cut the risk of clots, and are an es­pe­cially good idea on long-haul flights.

Try not to stay in your seat in one po­si­tion for too long ei­ther — have a stretch and move your feet and legs fre­quently, even when you’re stuck in your chair.

Stop­ping smok­ing and keep­ing gen­er­ally fit and healthy helps too.

MOVE IT: Re­duce your risk of de­vel­op­ing DVT on a flight by stretch­ing reg­u­larly.

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