Deep Vein Thrombosis Causes Risk Travel

Flying economy class can do more than give you a headache. Long periods of immobility can lead to a condition known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Sometimes called Economy Class Syndrome, deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot that forms in the deep veins nestled in the muscles.

What Causes DVT?

Long periods of immobility lead to DVT due to the fact that being immobile limits blood flow, allowing it to pool in the veins and form clots. Car trips and plane rides can lead to DVT if travelers are immobile for long periods of time and if their legs are confined in a cramped position. Immobilization due to illness or recovery after surgery is also a frequent cause of deep vein thrombosis.

Here are additional factors that can predispose a person to developing DVT:

  • Diabetes and obesity both weaken the veins and decrease blood flow, contributing to the development of DVT.
  • Smoking increases the risk of DVT because it weakens the veins.
  • Oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy put women at risk because estrogen increases blood coagulation, causing them to develop more blood clots.

Travelers with any of these conditions should be aware of the possibility of developing deep vein thrombosis and take measures to prevent its onset.

DVT Defined

Deep vein thrombosis occurs when a blood clot forms in anywhere within the body’s vein deeps. Unlike perforating and superficial veins that are closer to the surface of the skin, the deep veins run through the body’s muscles and aren’t visible to the human eye.

When someone suffers from DVT, blood clots severely impede his blood flow and cause blood to start pooling in the deep veins. Once a clot has formed, a patient may not necessarily develop symptoms. However, common symptoms of DVT may include:

  • acute pain
  • discolored skin
  • feelings of warmth in the location of the clot
  • inflammation.

Travel Tips to Prevent DVT

Travel tips to prevent DVT are generally simple and effective:

  • Move around: One of the best prevention techniques during flights is to take occasional walks up and down the cabin aisles to keep blood flowing throughout the legs. If a person cannot get up and walk, he should flex his ankle up and down, as if stepping on the accelerator of a car.

    Similarly, stopping every few hours during a car trip and walking or stretching is another good travel tip for warding off DVT.

  • Stay hydrated: The dry air in airplanes can often lead to dehydration, which thickens the blood and can contribute to DVT. Passengers should drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
  • Take blood thinner medication: Aspirin is a known blood thinner and can help maintain proper blood flow during periods of confinement. You should, however, talk to your doctor before beginning aspiring therapy.

    Doctors may even prescribe those with a genetic predisposition to DVT anticoagulants as a preventative measure, whether or not the patient intends to travel.

  • Wear compression hose: Those with a particularly high risk of developing DVT may consider wearing compression hose that encourage healthy blood flow when traveling for long periods of time.

The most important aspect to remember is that deep vein thrombosis is an avoidable condition. Proper travel awareness can keep even high-risk candidates from developing DVT.


ehealthMD (2004). What Causes Deep Vein Thrombosis? Retrieved June 21, 2007 from ehealthMD Web site:

Mann, Denise (2000). A Possible Reason to Fly First Class: ‘Economy Class Syndrome.’ Retrieved June 21, 2007 from Economy Class Syndrome Web site:

Marks, David (2006). Blood Clots: How to Keep Them Away. Retrieved June 21, 2007 from the Web site: