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5 Tips to Reduce Your Risk of Developing a Thrombus When Traveling This Holiday Season

The height of travel just began last month with Thanksgiving – which also means a likely increase in blood clots, called a thrombus. Thrombus can be seen in the deep veins that lie in between your muscles (called deep vein thrombus – DVT), in veins closer up to the skin called the superficial veins (called superficial vein thrombus – SVT), or even in varicose veins at the skin’s surface (also called SVT).

When a thrombus is in the deep veins, it is called a DVT. DVT can be life threatening. Each year 60,000 to 100,000 people die each year from a DVT. When a thrombus is in the superficial veins, it can progress into the deep veins via several smaller vein connections throughout the leg. This can also happen when a thrombus begins in a varicose vein.

Whether you are traveling by planes, trains or automobile, here are some tips to reduce your risk of developing a thrombus:

Business people blur.

1. Get up and move around every few hours during long travel times to improve blood flow.
2. Calf exercises, including pulling up on your toes and the pointing them can also increase blood flow to reduce the risk of thrombus formation.
3. Wear compression stockings during your travel. Make sure the stockings are not too tight.
4. Stay hydrated.
5. Walk around when you can. (For example, at the terminal while you are waiting)

If you have symptoms of swelling with pain and redness in your leg(s), you should seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Most of the time, people who have a thrombus, may not have any symptoms. However, early recognition can prevent the thrombus from traveling to the lung. When a thrombus travels to the lung, it is called a pulmonary embolus (PE). This complication of a deep vein thrombus (DVT) was highlighted in 2003 when it caused the death of 39-year-old NBC reporter David Bloom. Bloom had spent long hours reporting the war in Iraq from the cramped quarters of a military vehicle. It also gained recognition in 2011 when tennis superstar, Serena Williams, had a PE following a foot injury that required surgery.

To diagnose a thrombus in the leg, an ultrasound is performed. An ultrasound shows blood flow through the veins and if a thrombus is present.

When a DVT progresses to a PE in the lung, a specialized CT scan is done. Blood work can also be helpful in determining how likely it is a thrombus is present. However, a combination of clinical symptoms, age, travel and surgical history all are factors in the risk of having a thrombus.

Treatment of a DVT or PE can include “clot busters” and blood thinners. Your physician and you will work together to determine your cause and treatment. Know your risks. Reduce your risks.

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