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Travelling With Vasculitis And Vascular Disease

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Planning a holiday while living with vasculitis or another vascular disease may take a little more consideration than you might be used to, but with a little preparation and forethought it is still possible to indulge your passion for travel.

The most important thing to do before you book your trip is to have a conversation with your GP about the sort of adventure you have planned. Not only will they be able to confirm whether you are well enough to travel, but they will also be able to help you adjust your itinerary to ensure you have realistic expectations of what you might want to do on the holiday you have in the pipeline. Having a thorough understanding of what you need to do to manage your particular condition while you’re away from home is the very first step towards confidently planning your trip.

What is vasculitis and vascular disease?

Vascular disease is an umbrella term for a family of conditions which affect the blood vessels in the body, restricting the flow of oxygen-rich blood to organs, limbs and muscles. Over time, if left untreated, this can result in parts of the body becoming irreversibly damaged as well as other serious, often life-threatening consequences such as a heart attack.

Vascular diseases include coronary heart disease; stroke; aortic disease; and peripheral arterial disease (PAD) which affects blood flow to the limbs. PAD is one of the most common vascular conditions in the UK with The Circulation Foundation estimating that around 9% of the population is affected.

In contrast, vasculitis is a condition which has long flown under the radar here in the UK due to the fact it is a relatively rare type of vascular disease. However, with 2-3,000 new people diagnosed every year, awareness is gradually increasing – good news for those living with this condition. Vasculitis causes inflammation of the blood vessels – as they swell, the blood flow around the body is restricted.

Although vascular diseases can be very serious indeed, with the appropriate treatment, lifestyle changes and medical advice, it is possible to control these conditions and enjoy a well-deserved holiday.

Can you fly with vasculitis?

In theory, yes.

But you will need to check with your doctor beforehand to ensure your condition isn’t going to cause you complications on your journey. If you have PAD, you might also be thinking ‘is it safe to fly with peripheral artery disease?’ There’s no definitive yes or no answer to this as your doctor’s recommendation will be based on the status of your condition, but it is possible to control the condition and take a flight.

Choosing a destination

Living with a vascular disease can affect your destination of choice. You may want to consider avoiding high altitudes (those over 2,000 metres) and extreme temperatures as these types of environment can place a strain on the heart. If your heart is set on scaling that mountain or participating in potentially vigorous activities, seek advice from a health professional in advance to check you are being realistic about your limitations.

Be sure to research the location of your accommodation in advance so you can work out how easy it might be to get around and how close you might be to any medical facilities. It’s also important to consider the standards of the medical care that might be available to you; an island destination might be ill equipped to handle an emergency, for example.

Make medical arrangements in advance

Be sure to check you have all the medication you might need for your trip – it’s not a bad idea to pack a little extra too just in case any unforeseen circumstances or delays prevent you travelling back on time. Keep a separate list of all your medication and your prescribed dosage (generic and brand name) with you on the off-chance you lose any of it.

If you are travelling abroad, it is advisable to take an official letter, written by your GP, which details your condition, particularly any drugs or allergies you might have as well as any devices such as pacemakers or ICDs that you might have on your person. Don’t forget your device identification/card, too.

Walking through airport security systems is a common concern for those that might be fitted with a pacemaker or ICD but most modern devices are designed to withstand outside interference; although it is advisable not to spend too long around the machines. More information is available at The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.

The risks of deep vein thrombosis

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot forms in a deep vein. For the majority of the population, the risk of developing this life-threatening condition is relatively low; however, some vascular conditions may put you at greater risk. Speak to your GP before you fly long-haul as they might advise you to wear special support stockings during the flight or offer special medication that helps to prevent blood clots. You can also lower your risk during the flight by stretching your legs with simple exercises in your seat or getting up for a walk around every hour or so. It can also help to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and avoiding caffeine and alcohol.

Purchase vasculitis travel insurance

It can be a challenge to find a comprehensive travel insurance plan if you are living with vascular disease or vasculitis. However, it certainly isn’t impossible. Medical Travel Compared can help you find the right cover for your trip at the best possible price. Travel insurance may seem like an added extra cost to tag onto your holiday, but the peace of mind that comes with knowing you are covered should something go wrong is priceless.

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