If the legs suddenly hurt, there is a feeling of warmth in the affected area, they swell and feel heavy, there could be a thrombosis. Then act quickly and don't waste time!
Pay attention to thrombosis prevention during long journeys
The number of thromboses and the associated complications in the form of pulmonary embolism has increased in recent years, according to the German Society for Angiology / Society for Vascular Medicine (DGA). Sitting for hours, such as on a train or plane, is a clear risk factor. However, the risk of thrombosis can be minimized with various measures. People at risk should take precautions to avoid potentially life-threatening consequences.
If clots form in the blood due to blood clotting, which is supposed to protect the body from bleeding after injuries (Greek thrombos = graft or clot), these blood clots can lead to clogging of the blood vessels. Such vascular occlusions are referred to as thrombosis, whereby the veins are particularly affected, according to the DGA. If the blood clots show up in the deep leg and pelvic veins, this can quickly become life-threatening.
Impending pulmonary embolism in thrombosis
Because if part of the clot comes off in one of the deep leg and pelvic veins, it is transported to the lungs with the bloodstream via the heart. Here the clot closes vital veins for breathing and there is life-threatening pulmonary embolism, according to the DGA. Pulmonary embolism is the third most common fatal cardiovascular disease in Germany after a heart attack and stroke. The main risk factor for thrombosis is age, according to DGA expert Holger Lawall. From the age of 60, the likelihood of thrombosis increases significantly. In addition, people with varicose veins, lung or heart disease, smokers and overweight people have an increased risk of thrombosis. The risk of thrombosis is also increased in the case of a lack of exercise, such as after a long period of bed rest. This also applies to people who have had surgery recently. Last but not least, hormonal changes, such as during pregnancy or the birth control pill, would also result in increased blood clotting and thus an increased risk of thrombosis.
Long bus, train and plane trips pose a risk
Long air, train and bus journeys are quite dangerous for patients with an increased risk of thrombosis, since blood flow is additionally slowed down when sitting with bent legs. For this reason, according to Professor Tomas Jelinek, Medical Director of the Berlin Center for Travel and Tropical Medicine (BCRT), people in the risk groups should first speak to their doctor about sensible preventive measures. However, the risk of thrombosis "is otherwise not as high on long flights or journeys as we thought a few years ago," the expert continues to quote. Still, it couldn't hurt to occasionally move your legs a little, wiggle your toes, or tense your calf muscles. The alternation of muscle tension and relaxation helps the veins to transport the blood back to the heart against gravity. "Special travel socks made of a denser nylon fabric could also support blood flow and they also have" the pleasant side effect that the feet do not swell, "quotes" dpa "Professor Jelinek.
Consult prevention with the doctor
According to the expert, increased fluid intake in order to reduce the risk of thrombosis also makes sense, since the blood is kept fluid. However, alcohol is counterproductive because it widens the vessels and consequently the blood sinks into the leg veins. For long-distance trips, patients with a high risk of thrombosis may also receive individually tailored compression stockings or preventive medication. However, the experts strongly advise against unauthorized prevention, such as with aspirin. Also because the blood-thinning effect of the pain reliever aspirin has almost no effect on the veins and the drug therefore offers no help in preventing thrombosis, said Professor Jelinek.
Thick legs and feet are a warning sign
According to the managing director of the German Vein League, Petra Hager-Häusler, the risk of thrombosis is further increased after an injury or illness on vacation. “Anyone who has had an accident or got sick while on vacation should speak to the doctor treating them about thrombosis prophylaxis before returning home,” says Hager-Häusler. Otherwise, unpolluted people would also have an increased risk, for example, after pneumonia or a broken leg. Indications of thrombosis can include symptoms such as swollen ankles or thick legs, calf pain and a reddish or bluish discoloration of the skin. However, "the signs are often not clear", which is why "many affected people do not notice anything at first", says Holger Lawall. Persistent back pain may also be associated with thrombosis.
Consistently use compression stockings and medicines
According to the experts, any signs of thrombosis should be called for “immediate medical help” because early treatment significantly reduces the risk of serious complications in the form of the embolism. "Around a third of patients with deep leg vein thrombosis suffer from pulmonary embolism," Lawall told the "dpa". With timely diagnosis, the clot can be prevented from growing with the help of blood thinners and gradually dissolved by the organism.
Treatment usually lasts for several months, since the risk of re-thrombosis remains high while the body tries to disassemble the blood clot. Given the blood-thinning effect of the medication, the risk of undesirable and potentially dangerous bleeding in the body must also be taken into account. Compression stockings and bandages are also an important part of therapy. By exerting pressure on the veins, they help the venous valves, which prevent the blood from flowing back into the veins, from working. Consistently wearing the compression stockings and taking the tablets is the best protection against relapse, says Holger Lawall.
100,000 deaths from thrombosis annually
"In Germany alone, around 100,000 people die each year from a vascular occlusion due to thrombotic diseases," reports the DGA on the occasion of the campaign day for the elucidation and prevention of vascular diseases. Across Europe, over 500,000 deaths are reported annually. "This is more than traffic accidents, AIDS, breast and prostate cancer combined," said the DGA. The aim of this year's campaign is to provide doctors and the general public with a wide range of information about thrombosis and pulmonary embolism (VTE) "in order to raise public awareness of the prevention, diagnosis and therapy of this disease." (Sb)