A diagnosis of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) refers to a blood clot that has formed inside a vein, most commonly deep within a leg.
Although it’s not talked about as often as say, heart attacks, nearly half a million Americans are diagnosed with DVT every year, and it’s responsible for up to 100,000 deaths a year.
The biggest risk is encountered if a part of the clot breaks off and travels through the bloodstream.
- The clot may get stuck in the lungs, blocking blood flow and causing organ damage or death.
Symptoms Of Deep Vein Thrombosis:
In addition, redness, tenderness and/or pain in the area of the clot are noticeable.
Unfortunately, about half of the people with Deep Vein Thrombosis get no warning at all.
A Pulmonary Embolism is the name of the condition in which a blood clot moves into your lungs and blocks the blood supply.
- Trouble breathing
- Low blood pressure
- A faster heart rate (tachycardia)
- Chest pain
- Coughing up blood
Causes Of Deep Vein Thrombosis
Anything that damages the inner lining of a vein may cause DVT — surgery, an injury, or a failure of your immune system.
➡ If your blood is thick or flows slowly, it’s more likely to form a clot, especially in a vein that’s already damaged.
➡ People who have certain genetic disorders or more estrogen in their system are more at risk for blood clots, too.
The risks of Deep Vein Thrombosis are higher for some people, such as those who:
- Have cancer
- Have had surgery
- Are on extended bed rest
- Are over the age of 65
- Smoke (tobacco constricts blood vessels)
- Are overweight or obese
- Sit for long times, like on a long airplane flight
Other risks include:
➡ Women are more likely to develop DVT during pregnancy and during the 4 to 6 weeks after giving birth. That’s when they have higher levels of estrogen, which may make their blood clot more easily.
➡ The pressure of their expanding uterus can slow blood flow in the veins as well. Certain blood disorders can boost their risk even more.
Like pregnancy, birth control pills and some treatments for postmenopausal symptoms raise the amount of estrogen in a woman’s blood. That may increase her risk of DVT, even if she doesn’t have a blood disorder.
Traveling to new and faraway places can be exciting, but squishing into a coach seat for a long international flight…not so much.
➡ Studies show that long-distance travel, a trip that lasts more than 4 hours, doubles the risk of developing DVT.
It doesn’t matter if you go by air, bus, train, or car. When you’re in a cramped seat and don’t move around, your blood flow slows.
When you travel for more than 4 hours:
- Avoid tight clothing
- Drink plenty of water
- Get up and walk around at least every couple of hours
- If you have to stay in your seat, stretch and move your legs.
Try clenching and releasing your calves and thighs, or lifting and lowering your heels with your toes on the floor.
Your doctor will check you for signs of DVT. He may also ask about your medical history, medications you’re taking, medical problems of close relatives, and things that put you at risk.
An ultrasound is the most common way to confirm a diagnosis. It uses sound waves to “see” the blood flow and reveal a clot.
You might also need a blood test called a “d-dimer” which is used to rule out a blood clot.
Drugs called anticoagulants are the most common way to treat DVT. Although they’re known as blood thinners, they don’t really thin your blood.
What they do is make your blood less “sticky” to prevent new blood clots from forming.
- They cannot break up a clot you already have, but they will give your body time to dissolve it on its own. They are given via a shot or in pill form.
But blood thinners do have side effects:
➡ People who take blood thinners bruise more easily and also bleed more easily. Certain ones, such as Coumadin (Warfarin) require you to avoid certain foods because of potential negative interactions.
➡ You will also need to get lab work done regularly to make sure you’re on the correct dosage.
Be aware, however, that while some of the “newer” anticoagulants don’t have those restrictions, they make it harder to stop bleeding if you have an accident.
Let your doctor know if you bleed a lot from minor injuries.
Blood thinners can also make it easier to bleed inside your body, where you can’t see it.
➡ Bleeding in your belly can cause pain, vomit that’s red or looks like coffee grounds, and bright red or black stools.
➡ Bleeding in your brain can cause severe headaches, vision changes, unnatural movements, and confusion.
Other Treatment Options For Deep Vein Thrombosis
Vena Cava Filters
➡ This filter catches breakaway clots and stops them from getting into your lungs and heart.
➡ It won’t stop new clots from forming or cure DVT, but it can help prevent a dangerous pulmonary embolism (a blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries in your lungs.)
Medications that dissolve blood clots are called thrombolytics (“clot busters”).
➡ They can cause sudden, severe bleeding, so doctors use them only in emergencies — to dissolve a life-threatening blood clot in your lung, for example. They are administered by IV at a hospital.
➡ They can help prevent clots from forming as well as reduce swelling and relieve discomfort in a leg where a clot has already formed.
You can get compression stockings over the counter, but your doctor will need to write a prescription for ones with more pressure.
Important: Wear them even at home.
Put Your Feet UP
When you can, sit with your feet resting off the floor to raise your legs.
- This makes it easier for the blood in your veins to flow up toward your heart.
- This can lessen the swelling and discomfort in the leg caused by the DVT.
Long-Term Effects Of Deep Vein Thrombosis
DVT sometimes leaves some unpleasant reminders once they’re gone.
- You may see long-term swelling or changes in skin color where the clot was and/or it could hurt.
These symptoms, (known as a post-thrombotic syndrome), sometimes show up as much as a year after the clot.
How To Help Yourself
➡ Exercise (you see that in all my articles, don’t you? 😆 )
➡ Work your lower leg muscles especially.
➡ When you’re not active — at your desk, for example — take breaks to stretch your legs.
➡ Stand up. Step away for a bit.
And, of course, regular exercise also helps keep you at a healthy weight, and that lowers your risk as well.