Air travel has become one of the main means of transport for many people. Whether you fly internationally on vacation or domestically on business, so far flying is the fastest way to get to the point of destination. Unfortunately, even flying is not without its risks, and I’m not talking engine failure or adverse weather conditions.
Flying typically involves a lot of sitting in limited space and lack of movement. Together with low air and oxygen pressure and low humidity, being in an aircraft cabin for more than 2 hours can have a very serious consequence – venous thromboembolism following air travel, also known as economy class syndrome. Venous thromboembolism is a combination of deep vein thrombosis (DVT – a formation of a blood clot) and pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the lungs). The risk of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism increases when there are some underlying factors present.
Factors with moderate risk of venous thromboembolism on a long-haul flight:
- Birth control pill
- Short stature
- Varicose veins
- Genetic thrombotic states
Factors with relatively high risk of venous thromboembolism on a long-haul flight:
- Combination of moderate risk factors
- History of deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism
- Active cancer
- Recent surgery
- Congestive cardiac failure
- Very long-haul flights
As mentioned above, varicose veins are one of the risk factors when flying long distance, so if you are experiencing even mild symptoms of varicose veins or chronic venous insufficiency, it is advisable to have your legs thoroughly examined by a medical professional before you get on board. It’s better to be safe than sorry!