Finding the best flight deals, the perfect hotel – there’s more than enough things to worry about when getting ready to travel. But, an often overlooked condition could unexpectedly turn your vacay into a medical emergency. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when blood clots form in the deep veins of the legs after sitting in a confined space or being immobile for a long period of time. In the worst circumstances, the leg can become so swollen that an individual is unable to bend their knee or ankle, and they may even have long-term difficulty walking or exercising.
DVT is the third most common cardiovascular disease in North America and it’s estimated that as many as 900,000 new cases will be diagnosed in the United States each year. Long distance travel is most associated with a risk of developing DVT.
“The so-called ‘economy class syndrome’ is where long-distance travelers are mobilized for prolonged periods of time. They might find themselves dehydrated and as soon as the trip is done they might get up to try and walk around and they notice that their leg is severely swollen and painful. And unfortunately, they end up being diagnosed with a large blood clot in their leg,” Robert Lookstein, professor or radiology and surgery of Mount Sinai, told BlackDoctor.org in a recent interview.
Although long flights and road trips are commonly associated with DVT, there are several other factors that can put even the non-traveler at increased risk for DVT. These include:
- A severe illness
- A severe injury
- Any surgery that requires prolonged bed rest
- Being overweight or obese
- Certain medications, specifically hormonal-based medications
- Family history of blood clots
Although many people with DVT blood clots will recover completely, according to Lookstein, there are two distinct complications of DVT everyone should be aware of. The first, and most widely recognized, is pulmonary embolism (PE). This is when the blood clot breaks of out of the vein and travels up toward the heart, blocking circulation to the lungs. PE can be a life-threatening diagnosis and patients frequently need to be hospitalized for it.