Does your job keep you desk-bound? Then watch out, your feet need special care, says SUDHA UMASHANKER
Our legs are meant to make us mobile. While in the past, men and women trudged long distances in search of food, work, firewood and what-have-you, giving their legs the necessary exercise in the process, today, with shrinking distances, improved transportation and the advent of technology, a lot of work is done sitting at one’s desk.
Jobs that keep you desk-bound, those that involve prolonged sitting, long haul flights or road travel are not without their down side, which includes problems such as Dependent Edema (swelling of the feet) and Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) which, in simple terms, means abnormal clotting of blood in the veins.
What the experts say
Says Prof. N. Sekar, Senior Consultant Vascular Surgeon, Apollo Hospitals, “In the legs, venous blood has to travel upwards against gravity to reach the heart. This is facilitated by a number of valves in the veins which are unidirectional; they open only upwards allowing the blood to move up. Blood is also pumped into these veins by the contraction of the calf muscles (called the calf muscle pump or peripheral heart). So, when the legs are in a dependent position, and the muscles are relaxed such as during long distance travel or at work that keeps the individual desk-bound for long hours, blood tends to stagnate in the legs. This leads to seepage of fluids from the capillaries into the tissues, causing swelling.”
Deep Vein Thrombosis, also known as Economy Class Syndrome, is said to occur when the flow of blood is restricted and a clot (thrombus) forms in a deep vein. This commonly happens in the lower leg (calf) and can spread to the deep thigh veins.
“Deep Vein Thrombosis is seen, more often, in long distance air and road travellers, and in IT professionals who sit at the computer for long hours.” adds Dr Sekar
Dr. J. R.Subramaniam, Senior Consultant, Department of Internal Medicine, Apollo Hospitals, says, “Swelling of the feet is more likely to occur in people with varicose veins, blood pressure, and heart and kidney-related problems, and not just from desk-bound jobs.” So it makes sense to rule out these problems or take treatment if you do suffer from any of them.
Danger of DVT
As for Deep Vein Thrombosis, he says, “There is danger of a clot getting dislodged in a vein and propelled towards the lungs and becoming fatal. DVT is common among women who are on contraceptive pills, in those in whom there is prolonged lack of movement (bedridden patients) and those suffering from enzyme deficiency.”
How does a condition like Deep Vein Thrombosis develop?
“It usually starts in the calf muscles. Symptoms such as calf swelling, a catch in the muscle or pain while walking must be brought to the doctor’s notice to rule out Deep Vein Thrombosis. With non-invasive tests such as the Doppler (to check blood flow), a doctor can zero in on a diagnosis without delay,” says Dr. Sekar.
Fortunately, all these problems are preventable/curable if some simple steps (refer box) are followed.MAKE A MOVE Lose weight. Try to maintain an ideal BMI (Body Mass Index). Women on oral contraceptive pills should try to take a walk as frequently as possible. During travel or at work, wear loose fitting garments. People who are desk-bound should try to be more physically active and move around as frequently as possible. If desk-bound, move the feet periodically; exercise them by doing a pedalling action. Alternatively, keep the feet elevated once in a while. If on a long-haul flight, walk down the aisle periodically. Drink plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration. Wear compression stockings which will prevent venous stagnation,
Or use compression bandages from the arch of your feet to just above or below the knee.
High risk patients will need medical treatment.The best way of preventing DVT and dependent edema is simply to do what your legs were meant to do — that is, keep moving.