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DVT worries needn't be in vein

It needn't be in vein

Harriet Ewe explains

Since hearing about Deep Vein Thrombosis, I have spent every long-haul flight pacing up and down the aisle, overdosing on aspirin and obstructing the food trolley. My paranoia is based on the fact that I have bad circulation. All my extremities go white and threaten to snap off should the temperature drop below boiling point.

A recent campaign on leg awareness, launched by Activa, makers of protective socks, reveals that, however irritating my fretful pacing might have been, it was not entirely misplaced.  According to Activa’s leg health expert, Kimby Osbourne, one in thirty people may suffer a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) when travelling for more than three hours. And contrary to popular belief, this does not only apply to flying, but to any form of travel where leg room is restricted. Long coach, car or train journeys carry just as many risks. (How does onepace up and down a car?)

Noting my alarm, Kimby is quick to reassure. ‘A deep vein thrombosis is only life-threatening when a blood clot breaks away from the leg and enters the lungs or heart,’ she says. ‘And it is extremely rare for this to happen.’ But having lulled me into a sense of confidence, she then goes on to explain how the majority of DVTs cause damage to the deep veins, increasing the risk of further DVTs and of long-term venous problems, such as varicose veins and leg ulcers. To illustrate this point, she produces a series of stomach-turning photographs of suppurating ulcers and bulging varices. I vow never to set foot out of London again.

It soon transpires, however, that my future movements needn’t be so restricted. As part of its campaign, Activa has brought out a new Class 1, 2, and 3 Air Sock, available on prescription. The new sock, which has a different ‘profile’ from those unflattering white anti-embolism stockings you get in hospital, comes in several sizes and offers ‘graduated support.’ It works by having a gentle massaging effect on the ankle and calf. This improves circulation and assists the return of blood back to the heart. Stockings and tights for those who need a greater degree of massaging are also available, but not on the NHS.

To ensure you are getting the right level of compression from the Air Sock, it is important to be measured by a trained pharmacist or health professional. Having taken down my history of frozen extremities and ominous tinglings, Kimby measured both my legs and supplied me with a pair of Class 1 below-the-knee socks.

‘Only Class 1?’ I say somewhat indignantly, aware that these offer the least support. But, according to Kimby, my legs look healthy enough. The ominous tinglings might have been a simple case of pins and needles.

I rush home to try on my new compression hosiery. The result is most satisfactory. The Activa Air Sock is not only extremely comfortable, but also has the benefit of looking like an ordinary black silk sock. Kimby wears a pair every day, as does her twenty-year-old daughter who has a sedentary job. I might not be quite as conscientious, but will definitely use mine whenever I travel. A relief, no doubt, to the person sitting next to me on the red-eye to Sydney.

You are most at risk of DVT if:

  • You are over 40
  • You smoke, are very tall, very small or obese
  • You have any previous or current leg swelling
  • You have a recent minor leg injury
  • You have extensive varicose veins
  • You are pregnant
  • You are on hormone medication
  • You have suffered a DVT before
  • You have suffered a stroke, or have had recent heart surgery
  • You are undergoing chemotherapy
  • You have paralysed lower limbs

Talk to your doctor before you travel if you think you could be vulnerable to DVT  

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