When it comes to our health, there are some factors that are out of our control. Thankfully, though, educating ourselves about certain conditions can help us to catch and treat them early or possibly avoid them altogether. Deep vein thrombosis is one example of this. It is a potentially serious condition, but you can greatly lessen your risk of being affected if you know a little bit about its prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
Here’s what you need to know about deep vein thrombosis.
What is Deep Vein Thrombosis?
Deep vein thrombosis is when a clot forms in a vein that is deep below the skin. It usually occurs in the legs, but it can occasionally affect the arms.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can be caused by anything that interferes with the way your blood normally circulates and clots. Injury to a vein, surgery, certain health conditions or medications, and inactivity can increase your risk of developing a clot.
Risk factors for DVT include:
- Injury to a vein, possibly caused by surgery, fractures, or severe muscle injury.
- Prolonged bed rest, whether it’s due to injury, illness, or a more permanent health condition.
- Hormone replacement therapy.
- Being overweight or obese.
- Health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, cancer, or inflammatory bowel disease.
- A personal or family history of DVT.
- Being over 60.
- Sitting for long periods of time, especially with crossed legs.
Symptoms of DVT include swelling, pain that may feel like cramping or soreness, redness of the skin, or a feeling of warmth. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor as soon as possible.
It is estimated that half of those who suffer from DVT don’t experience any symptoms. Thus, if you have one or more risk factors associated with it, it’s a good idea to have a conversation with your doctor. He or she may recommend compression stockings or medications to prevent DVT from developing.
Complications of Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep vein thrombosis is serious because clots in your veins can break loose and block blood flow to your lungs. This is known as pulmonary embolism.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, seek immediate medical attention:
- Sudden shortness of breath.
- Chest pain that worsens when you take a deep breath or cough.
- Lightheadedness or fainting.
- Rapid pulse or irregular heartbeat.
- Coughing up blood.
Treating Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep vein thrombosis needs to be diagnosed by a doctor. It is often treated with medication, such as blood thinners which can prevent clots from forming or growing. If other medications aren’t working, your doctor may prescribe a medication to break up existing clots. Occasionally a filter is inserted to prevent clots from lodging in the lungs. Compression stockings can help prevent swelling caused by DVT and can also reduce the risk that blood will pool and clot. In more severe cases, a clot might need to be surgically removed.
Preventing Deep Vein Thrombosis
In some cases, DVT is completely preventable. Lifestyle changes such as losing weight or quitting smoking can lower your risk significantly. Regular exercise also lowers your risk of blood clots. Make sure to talk to your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.
It’s also important to avoid sitting still. If you’ve been confined to bed for an illness, injury, or surgery, get up and move around as soon as your doctor allows it.
If you’re taking a trip by plane or car or sitting still for an extended time, the following tips can help keep your blood circulating effectively:
- Get up and walk around at least every 2-3 hours.
- Exercise your legs while you’re sitting by raising and lowering your heels while your toes are on the floor or raising and lowering your toes while keeping your heels on the floor.
- Tighten and release your leg muscles.
- Don’t cross your legs – it restricts blood flow.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing.
Deep vein thrombosis is a serious condition, but thankfully it’s both preventable and treatable.
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