The Facts About Deep Vein Thrombosis
When most people think about taking care of their health, they think of working to prevent diseases and ailments. But sometimes, the most frightening and worrisome conditions can strike without any sign – and you might not even know just how much your health is in danger. Deep vein thrombosis is one of those conditions.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a medical condition that’s surprisingly common. There are 300,000 new cases of DVT each year in America. And when DVT happens, it can lead to serious, perhaps even deadly, problems and complications.
If you’re wondering if you might be at risk for DVT, you need to know how this health concern can begin. Here are the facts about deep vein thrombosis.
What is Deep Vein Thrombosis?
Deep vein thrombosis is essentially a blood clot. When a blood clot forms in one of the body’s deep veins, it’s considered DVT. These blood clots typically form in the legs, but they can form anywhere in the body. One or more can form at a time.
The danger of DVT is the blood clot’s potential to move throughout the body. Should a DVT blood clot break free within the veins, it can move through the bloodstream and potentially become lodged somewhere. And that could block blood flow to important organs.
DVT commonly develops in people who are already experiencing other medical conditions that affect the veins or blood flow. However, it can also happen if you aren’t moving for long periods of time, such as when you’re confined to bed or seated on an airplane.
Are You At Risk for DVT?
The best way to assess your risk for developing DVT is to see if you have any of the risk factors associated with the condition. Certain factors, some of which can be changed and some that may be avoidable, can make you more likely to develop a DVT blood clot.
The following can all increase your odds of DVT:
- Being age 40 or older.
- Sitting for long periods of time.
- Being on bed rest.
- Vein injuries or trauma.
- A history of smoking.
- Taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy.
Additionally, certain health conditions can also increase your risk for deep vein thrombosis. If you have certain types of cancer, inherited blood disorders, irritable bowel disease, and heart disease, you may have an increased risk of these blood clots.
How to Tell If DVT is Happening to You
Once you’re aware of the risk factors associated with DVT, you’ll be better prepared to prevent the condition. However, there is something that makes DVT a bit tricky to watch out for.
DVT can occur without giving any noticeable symptoms in some individuals. You could be experiencing DVT without even realizing it. There may not be any pain, any discomfort, or any unusual changes to your health. And this can make it difficult to detect on your own.
Sometimes, though, you may detect some changes in your legs. If DVT is happening in your legs, you may experience swelling in the leg where the blood clot has formed. You might also feel cramping or soreness in your calf. Your skin may feel warm to the touch.
If you’re worried about symptoms like these, you should contact your doctor. It’s important to see your doctor as soon as possible to prevent further complications if you’re experiencing DVT.
Once your doctor has confirmed that you’re experiencing DVT, they’ll determine which treatment option will be best for your unique situation.
The goal of any deep vein thrombosis treatment is to prevent the blood clot from growing bigger or breaking off and causing additional complications. Doctors will treat DVT with the following options:
- Medications, such as blood thinners that reduce the body’s ability to form blood clots.
- An inferior vena cava (IFC) filter, which can catch blood clots before they reach the lungs.
- Compression stockings, which are socks that prevent blood pooling and help circulation.
These treatments may also be used by your doctor to help prevent future DVT occurrences.
DVT Can Be Dangerous
While deep vein thrombosis might seem simple at its surface – after all, it’s a single blood clot that forms – it can be quite serious. DVT can be treated when it happens, but if left alone, it can also be deadly. That single blood clot could make its way to your lungs and cause complications that could kill you.
That’s why it’s so important to understand the dangers that come with DVT. The complications of this health condition can change everything. If you have DVT, you could experience one of the two common complications: a pulmonary embolism or postphlebitic syndrome.
A pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot travels from elsewhere in the body and blocks blood flow to the lungs. And this can be life-threatening. It can prevent your lungs from functioning properly, and it can result in death if not caught in time.
Postphlebitic syndrome can also occur after DVT happens. The blood clot that forms can damage your deep vein or veins, which results in reduced blood flow. And that newly limited blood flow can cause issues like skin discoloration, pain, and persistent swelling.
Fortunately, you can prevent these complications and DVT itself. If you’re aware of DVT and its causes and risk factors, you may be able to lower your risk. You might even be able to prevent the condition.
Preventing DVT means taking measures like the following:
- Moving regularly. Sitting still can cause DVT and blood flow issues, so it’s important to get up and move every hour or so.
- Practicing blood flow exercises to improve circulation when sitting for long periods. You can do exercises like raising and lowering your heels while on a plane or bed rest.
- Making lifestyle changes. Smoking and being overweight are risk factors for DVT, and you can work to alter both.
- Getting regular exercise.
If you’re worried about deep vein thrombosis, talk with your doctor about your risk. You can get more specific advice about preventing the possibility of DVT and your specific health concerns.