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Posts Tagged ‘DVT’

Deep Vein Thrombosis: Scary, but Preventable and Treatable (if Caught Early). By Kelly Banker, Our Student Who Continues to Think Deep Thoughts.

Since I’m apparently such a “deep-thinking student,” today I’m writing to you about deep vein thrombosis (DVT), also known as “economy-class syndrome” to those people who like to spend their lives getting angry over the size of airplane seats. (Psst, life is too short to stress about the small things. Like airplane seats).

All joking aside, a DVT happens when a blood clot forms in one of your major veins. This is actually very serious because if the blood clot becomes dislodged, it can travel to the lungs and block blood flow (known as a pulmonary embolism) making it hard to breathe and possibly causing death. Blood clots form more often when you don’t move very much or are confined to a small space. They can happen during or after a long flight, bus, train or car ride, even up to a few weeks later.

We all think that these things will never happen to us, but you might be more at risk than you think. Anyone can get a blood clot if they sit for too long. People at higher risk are those who have had one before, who are over age 50, pregnant, overweight, had surgery in the last 3 months, have cancer or heart failure, or take certain medications like birth control or hormone replacement therapy. Smoking is a huge risk factor and anything that can cause dehydration (alcohol, caffeine, heat) can also raise your risk. The length of travel also plays a role- airplane flights over 8 to 10 hours have a much higher risk than those under 4 hours long.

Maybe you think you will just deal with a blood clot if it happens to you. I’m sorry to tell you that many people don’t show symptoms. You might have pain or swelling in your lower leg or bruising behind the knee, but you might not, especially if it shows up weeks later. Symptoms of a pulmonary embolism may be shortness of breath, chest pain, or fainting.

You don’t need to worry too much, though, because like many health conditions, blood clots can be prevented.

What you can do to prevent a blood clot while traveling:

  • Drink water before and while you are traveling so you don’t get dehydrated.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol (so you don’t get dehydrated)
  • Wear loose fitting clothes and comfortable shoes
  • Don’t cross your legs for long periods of time (if your foot falls asleep, that’s too long)
  • Walk around if you have a lay-over and before you board your flight OR at stops if traveling by bus or car
  • Sleep for 30 minutes at a time only or you won’t be moving your legs enough (you don’t have to wake up ALL the way, just enough to change positions)
  • Take the aisle seat so you can stretch and stand up more easily
  • DO NOT SIT FOR A LONG TIME WITHOUT MOVING. Get up and walk, or do ankle circles and foot lifts

You can find more simple exercises for preventing blood clots here: http://www.acefitness.org/fitfacts/fitfacts_display.aspx?itemid=290

Remember to remind your friends/family/travel companions that they should be concerned about blood clots too. Happy trails!


NOTE from Robin:

Joe and I asked Kelly to write about this subject, because my mom, Roberta, recently had this occur. She had blood clots in both legs that traveled to her lungs and almost killed her. She has been in the hospital this past week and the doctors did emergency surgery to remove clots from her lungs and keep large clots from going to her heart. Luckily, she is going to be okay, but many people are not as fortunate. We even missed the signs, because she was having back problems and we thought the pain in her legs was related to that and sciatic nerve issues. Only when her left leg began to swell and turn black, did we realize a clot was the problem. Mom did not have just one clot, however–she had many, many clots. If three pharmacists (my sister, Bobbie, is also a pharmacist at Dublin Methodist) can misinterpret the signs of blood clots, people outside the medical world can, as well. We want to make sure you do not! Sadly, Ann Murray’s son-in-law lost his life because of a blood clot that traveled to his heart.

The photos below are of my mom’s leg and foot on the first day after she began treatment for the clots and then again two days later. We did not take a photo of her leg as it originally looked–black and swollen to twice its normal size. We were too worried about her at that point. Happily, she is now done with the clot buster therapy and will soon be out of ICU. But she will need to be on a blood thinner for the rest of her life. A small price to pay for surviving something that could have been deadly. All of us who love her are very thankful to the wonderful staff at Dublin Methodist and Riverside (especially Dr. Dean) for saving her life.