Simply put, deep vein thrombosis occurs when blood clots in one of the veins situated deep in your body. The blood clot commonly occurs in the legs, and that is why symptoms such as pain, feeling of heaviness and inflammation may occur in the affected leg. However, DVT may also take place without causing any symptoms.
Deep vein thrombosis is regarded as a serious condition. This is especially true as the blood clot may break loose and travel to other parts of the body via the blood stream. It may get to one of the blood vessels in the lungs and hamper proper blood circulation, resulting in a condition known as pulmonary embolism or PE.
Symptoms of pulmonary embolism include rapid pulse rate, shortness of breath, chest pain worsened by taking deep breaths, dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, and coughing up of bloody sputum. So how dangerous is PE? If the condition is not treated promptly and properly, sudden death may occur.
Risk Factors of DVT
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 1 to 2 out of 1,000 Americans each year develop deep vein thrombosis. Just about anyone may end up having DVT, although the condition gets more common as you age. There are a handful of other DVT risk factors aside from age, and they include:
- Previous history of venous thromboembolis, a condition which includes DVT and PE.
- Having family members with blood-clotting disorders.
- Lack of physical activity such as after a surgery, extended bed rest or even paralysis.
- Smoking which affects blood circulation and blood clotting.
- Injury to the veins as well as undergoing a surgical procedure.
- Being obese or overweight as there’s increased pressure in the veins in the legs.
- Pregnancy because of the increased pressure in the pelvic area and legs.
- The intake of birth control pills or receiving hormone replacement therapy.
- Heart failure due to limited function of the heart and lungs.
- Having certain medical conditions such as cancer and diabetes
- Suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
- Sitting for very long periods of time, such as when traveling.
As earlier mentioned, pulmonary embolism may occur when the blood clot that formed in the legs travel via the blood stream and gets lodged in one of the veins in the lungs. This will impair blood circulation in the lungs and may cause death when not treated right away.
One more complication of deep vein thrombosis is post-thrombotic syndrome or PST. Also known as postphlebitic syndrome, PST consists of a group of symptoms brought about by the damage to the veins due to the blood clot, as well as the reduction of blood supply in the affected area. Some of the symptoms brought about by PST include leg inflammation and pain, skin discoloration and sores on areas of the body where blood circulation is insufficient.
Tips on Keeping DVT at Bay
- Regular checkups. One of the best ways to prevent suffering from DVT is by consulting your doctor on a regular basis. Especially if you have family members with blood-clotting disorders or have suffered from DVT itself, you should tell your doctor about it.
- Move around after undergoing surgery. Blood flow is considerably reduced after having surgery. As soon as your health care provider says that it’s permissible to start moving around, get out of bed to stimulate or improve blood circulation. Doing so will help in reducing your chances of having post-surgery blood clots.
- Embrace an active lifestyle. Sedentary living can put you at high risk of having DVT. Exercising on a regular basis can help in significantly reducing your chances of developing blood clots. Some of the best anti-DVT exercises include walking, bicycling and swimming. Exercising on a regular basis also helps you manage your weight, thus reducing your risk of having DVT further.
- Stretch your legs when traveling. Being stuck in an airplane, bus or any other vehicle for a long time can put you at risk of having DVT. Experts say that you should try to stretch your legs and walk around for a while every 2 to 3 hours to get the blood in your legs to circulate properly.
- Quit smoking. Ditching the habit saves the blood vessels from being damaged and the blood circulation from being hampered. Aside from considerably reducing your odds of having DVT, quitting smoking can also decrease your chances of suffering from diseases including the heart and lungs.
- Wear compression stockings. These are like lengthy socks that go up to just below the knees. They provide enough pressure to keep the blood from pooling in the lower extremities, thus minimizing blood clot formation.