Fear of flying may be the main cause of the potentially fatal condition known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which affects up to 30,000 long distance travelers a year. Until now, it was believed that DVT, often called ?economy class syndrome,? was caused by the cramped conditions on planes, along with long periods of immobility which could cause clots to form in the veins of passengers? legs.

But according to Peter Hughes, founder of Hughes D.V.T Research, the primary cause is the anxiety and stress of flying. ?It is well known that a large percentage of airline passengers are frightened of flying,? he says. ?This anxiety and stress is often exacerbated by the necessity to meet a departure deadline in circumstances where they may suffer serious delay due to congestion on the roads and railways leading to the airport.?

Once they board the plane, passengers are jammed into tiny seats with even more waiting time, while their blood supply pools into their legs. ?At this point the passengers who are already suffering stress and anxiety are subjected to the rigors of take off. This leads to very high secretion of adrenaline resulting in the constriction of the venous blood supply, which can result in the formation of thrombosis in the legs of vulnerable passengers,? Hughes says.

Hughes is not a doctor, but has worked for 35 years as a medical innovator and has a panel of 5 doctors who agree that his hypothesis should be tested. He has developed an anti-DVT exercise cushion and compression stockings.

Professor Geoffrey Savidge, a hematologist at London?s St. Thomas?s Hospital and a member of the medical panel supporting Hughes, says it?s known that stress increases the production of blood clotting factors, possibly as a throw-back to ancient times when people could not afford to lose large quantities of blood when fighting in survival situations.

Dr. Stephen Jenkins, a cardiologist at St. Thomas?s Hospital, says many passengers are so frightened of flying they are ?bent in half? in their seats, and also suffer from dehydration.

Another DVT expert, Dr. John Scurr, a vascular surgeon at the Middlesex Hospital in London, says, ?It?s an interesting theory, but it still has to be tested.?

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