This month marks the 7th annual Deep Vein Thrombosis Awareness Month. The Coalition to Prevent Deep-Vein Thrombosis is working diligently to make more people aware of this potentially life-threatening condition.
While many of us are unfamiliar with the complications involving deep-vein thrombosis, each year almost 2 million people are afflicted with this condition and of that number 300,000 succumb to a more serious side effect known as a pulmonary embolism. By making the public aware of the risks and symptoms of this condition, treatment can be sought early enough to prevent further complications.
So what exactly is a deep-vein thrombosis?
A deep-vein thrombosis, also known as a DVT, is a blood clot that occurs deep within the vein usually in the lower extremities, especially the calves and thighs; however, they can occur anywhere within the body. If the blood clot breaks off and makes its way to the lungs, it can block the flow of blood within the lungs. This condition is known as a pulmonary embolism and if not treated, it can lead to death.
What causes a DVT and who is most at risk?
Anyone can be at risk for developing a DVT, however, those individuals over the age of 60 are at a greater risk than those much younger.
Risk factors that can lead to a DVT include:
What are some of the symptoms of a DVT
- Surgery or injury, such as a broken bone or trauma
- Individuals who are immobile, especially those confined to bed
- Prolonged sitting
- Individuals traveling by car, train or plane for extended periods of time
- Pregnancy, especially in the third trimester and immediately following delivery
- Individuals suffering from cancer or heart failure
- Women taking oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
Now that you know the risk factors and symptoms of a DVT, what are some preventative measures you can take to prevent this condition.
- Swelling of the lower leg
- Pain in the leg when walking or standing or when the foot is flexed
- Redness and/or warmth to the area
- Should you develop a pulmonary embolism from a DVT, you may experience shortness of breath, rapid pulse, pain when deep breathing and/or coughing up blood
Preventative measures include:
Awareness is the first step in detecting and preventing this condition. If caught early enough, it can be treated without further complications. It is important not to ignore any pain in the leg, particularly if the pain is associated with redness and/or swelling. Seeking early intervention is essential with this condition. Be sure to talk with your doctor if you have any concerns regarding this condition, especially if you are traveling or will be experiencing prolonged periods of immobility.
- Losing weight
- Quitting smoking
- Getting up every hour from your desk
- Avoid crossing your legs
- Talking with your doctor before any surgery about plans for getting you up and moving after your surgery. Getting out of bed and walking as soon as possible after surgery may help prevent development of a DVT
- Keeping well hydrated, especially when traveling
- If traveling by car, stopping frequently and walking
- If traveling by plane, getting up every hour or so and walk up and down the aisle
- Talk with your doctor about wearing compression hose when traveling
- Avoiding alcohol and caffeine consumption when traveling
- Moving your legs by flexing your toes, pushing down on the balls of your feet when sitting
Have you or someone you know ever suffered from a DVT? Were you are aware of the high rate of occurrence with this condition?