Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is caused by a blood clot in a deep vein and can be life-threatening. About 900,000 Americans get DVT every year, and up to 100,000 die because of it. Click through to find out whether you’re one who’s likely to get DVT, and how to prevent it.
DVT is the formation of a blood clot within a deep vein, most commonly the legs. When a clot breaks off and moves through the bloodstream, it can get stuck in your lungs, heart, or another area, causing organ damage or death.
One common symptom of DVT is a leg swollen below the knee. Other Symptoms include: pain, warm skin, redness and tenderness in the area of the clot. However, most people may not find out they have DVT until they’ve gone through emergency treatment for a pulmonary embolism.
A pulmonary embolism usually happens when a blood clot moves into your lungs and blocks the blood supply. It can cause breathing trouble, fainting, racing heartbeat, chest pain, low blood pressure, and coughing up blood. Call 911 if you notice any these symptoms.
DVT can be caused by anything that prevents your blood from circulating normally or clotting properly – surgery, injury, thick blood, genetic disorders or more estrogen in the body system.
People with the following risk factors are more likely to develop DVT: cancer; increasing age; smoking; being overweight or obese; prolonged bed rest; injury or surgery; pregnancy; birth control pills or hormone replace therapy; sitting for long periods of time.
Studies show that sitting for over 4 hours (whether stationary or in motion) doubles the chance of getting DVT. This is because blood clots can form in the calves of your legs when your legs remain still for many hours.
Women are more likely to develop DVT during pregnancy in the 4 to 6 weeks after giving birth. Increased estrogen levels, and a slower blood flow as your uterus expands and restricts blood flowing back from lower extremities, contribute to this risk.
Birth control pills and some treatments for postmenopausal symptoms can raise the amount of estrogen in a woman’s blood, thus increasing the blood’s ability to clot.
Apart from a physical exam, your doctor will also ask about the symptoms, your medical history, family health history, and other things that raise your chances of having DVT. You may also need to have tests to rule out other problems.
These 2 tests are often done first to diagnose DVT. D-dimer detects pieces of a blood clot that has been broken down and are loose in your bloodstream. Ultrasound uses sound waves to make pictures of blood vessels and reveal a clot.
These drugs, also called anticoagulants, are the most common way to treat DVT. They can keep a clot from growing or breaking off, and they prevent new clots from forming. They can’t break up an existing clot, but they will give your body time to dissolve one on its own.
Blood thinners can make people bruise often or bleed more easily. So you may need to have a regular blood test to ensure you have the right amount in your system. You’ll also need to make sure the food you eat won’t interfere with these medications. Consult your doctor if you bleed a lot from minor injuries.
Blood thinners can also make it easier to bleed inside your body. Bleeding in your belly can cause pain, bloody or discolored urine or feces. Bleeding in your brain can result in severe headaches, vision changes, unnatural movements, and confusion. Get treatment immediately if any of these symptoms appear.
Your doctor may put a filter into your biggest vein called vena cava if you can’t take blood thinners or they aren’t working. This filter helps prevent pulmonary embolisms by catching breakaway clots and stopping them from getting into your lungs.
Thrombolytics are medications that dissolve blood clots, but they can also cause severe bleeding that’s hard to stop. So doctors use them only in emergencies like pulmonary embolism. You get thrombolytics by IV in a hospital.
These special stockings can lower your chance of developing clots as well as keep swelling down and relieve pain where a clot has formed. You can get compression stockings over the counter, but ask your doctor about ones with more pressure.
Don’t wear tight clothing, and drink plenty of water when you have to sit for more than 4 hours. Get up and walk every two hours if possible. If you must stay in your seat, stretch and move your legs, or lower your heels with your toes on the floor.
Keep your feet up while sitting to make it easier for the blood in your veins to flow up toward your heart. This can lessen swelling and discomfort in the leg with DVT.
Use your muscles, especially your lower leg muscles, to get blood flowing, and it can lower the risk of blood clots. Moreover, regular exercise helps keep you fit, thus reducing the odds of developing DVT.
Once a blood clot is gone, you may see long-term swelling, pain or changes in skin color where the clot was. These symptoms, known as post-thrombotic syndrome, sometimes appear one year after the clot.