I am often asked by patients if they are at risk of getting blood clots when they travel on an overseas trip. To clarify what is meant by a blood clot you must first understand that there are 2 types of blood clots: Superficial (that involves the veins just below the skin surface) and Deep (that involves the more significant deeper veins). It is usually involvement of these deeper veins (a Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT) that can lead to smaller clots travelling to the lung which are called Pulmonary Embolisms (PE’s). A PE can be fatal. Interestingly, clots can also come from clots in the superficial veins so these should not to be thought of as completely harmless clots.
Often this question about flying and clots is asked because the patient has large varicose veins. The simple answer to this question is that, although varicose veins are a risk factor for developing blood clots, a much larger risk factor is the presence of an underlying blood clotting abnormality. A clotting abnormality is found in over half the people who have DVT’s and PE’s. Approximately 4% of the population have a blood clotting abnormality. For those people in the “at risk” group it is important to understand that it is often other risk factors that are added to the clotting abnormality that precipitate a clot. These factors are: being overweight, smoking, excess alcohol, not enough water, no activity and being on the oral contraceptive pill.
The use of Jobst travel socks which are clinically proven to prevent swelling and reduce the risk of developing DVT can be beneficial. Vein Doctors Group now sells Jobst Travel Socks.