Deep Vein Thrombosis is a cardiovascular condition that can develop as a result of heart failure and other factors that affect the cardiovascular system. Other factors include smoking and obesity. DVT can be fatal if undiagnosed or if it moves into the heart and lungs.
Deep Vein Thrombosis is commonly referred to as "DVT". It is a common but serious medical condition. DVT occurs when a thrombus, or blood clot, forms in a large vein, usually in the lower extremities. The clot may completely or partially block circulation, which can result in a pulmonary embolism or death if not diagnosed and treated.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are a number of factors that can increase your risk of developing deep vein thrombosis. Those risk factors include:
- Sitting for long periods of time, such as when driving or flying. When your legs remain still for long periods, your calf muscles don't contract, which normally helps blood circulate. Blood clots can form in the calves of your legs if your calf muscles aren't moving. Although sitting for long periods is a risk factor, your chance of developing deep vein thrombosis while flying or driving is relatively low.
- Inheriting a blood-clotting disorder. Some people inherit a disorder that makes their blood clot more easily. This inherited condition may not cause problems unless combined with one or more other risk factors.
- Prolonged bed rest, such as during a long hospital stay, or paralysis. When your legs remain still for long periods, your calf muscles don't contract to help blood circulate, which can make blood clots develop.
- Injury or surgery. Injury to your veins or surgery can slow blood flow, increasing the risk of blood clots. General anesthetics used during surgery can make your veins wider (dilate), which can increase the risk of blood pooling and then clotting.
- Pregnancy. Pregnancy increases the pressure in the veins in your pelvis and legs. Women with an inherited clotting disorder are especially at risk. The risk of blood clots from pregnancy can continue for up to six weeks after you have your baby.
- Cancer. Some forms of cancer increase the amount of substances in your blood that cause your blood to clot. Some forms of cancer treatment also increase the risk of blood clots.
- Inflammatory bowel disease. Bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis, increases your risk of DVT.
- Heart failure. People with heart failure are at risk of DVT because a damaged heart doesn't pump blood as effectively as a normal heart does. This increases the chance that blood will pool and clot.
- Birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy. Birth control pills (oral contraceptives) and hormone replacement therapy both can increase your blood's ability to clot.
- A pacemaker or a thin, flexible tube (catheter) in a vein. These medical treatments can irritate the blood vessel wall and decrease blood flow.
- A history of deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism. If you've had DVT before, you're more likely to have DVT in the future.
- A family history of deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism. If someone in your family has had DVT or a pulmonary embolism, your risk of developing DVT is increased.
- Being overweight or obese. Being overweight increases the pressure in the veins in your pelvis and legs.
- Smoking. Smoking affects blood clotting and circulation, which can increase your risk of DVT.
- Age. Being over age 60 increases your risk of DVT, though it can occur at any age.
- Being tall. Taller men may be more likely to have blood clots. Taller women do not appear to have an increased risk, perhaps because most women do not typically get as tall.
According to the Mayo Clinic, deep vein thrombosis occurs without any noticeable symptoms in about fifty percent of cases. When symptoms are present, they include:
- Swelling in the affected leg, including swelling in your ankle and foot.
- Pain in your leg; this can include pain in your ankle and foot. The pain often starts in your calf and can feel like cramping or a charley horse.
- Warmth over the affected area.
- Changes in your skin color, such as turning pale, red or blue.
In order for your doctor to determine if you have Deep Vein Thrombosis, he or she may ask you a series of questions about your symptoms and perform a physical exam to check your body for swelling, tenderness or skin discoloration. Your doctor may suggest further testing which may include an Ultrasound, blodd tesets, Venography, or a CT or MRI scan.
The goal of DVT treatment is stopping the blood clot from getting larger, preventing the clot from breaking loose and causing a pulmonary embolism, and reducing your chances of developing DVT again. There are several treatment options to attain those goals including the use of blood thinners, clotbusters, filters, or compression stockings.
According to the Mayo Clinig, preventing DVT is much easier than treating
it. Some common preventive measures include:
- Take any prescribed medications as directed. If you're having surgery, such as orthopedic surgery, you'll probably be given blood thinners while you're in the hospital. Check in with your doctor regularly to see if your medication or treatments need to be modified.
- Watch how much vitamin K you're eating if you take blood thinners. Vitamin K can affect how drugs such as warfarin work. Foods high in vitamin K include green leafy vegetables and canola and soybean oils.
- Exercise your lower calf muscles if you'll be sitting a long time. Whenever possible, get up and walk around. If you can't get up to walk around, try raising and lowering your heels while keeping your toes on the floor, then raising your toes while your heels are on the floor.
- Move. If you've been on bed rest, because of surgery or other factors, the sooner you get moving, the less likely blood clots will develop.
- Make lifestyle changes. Lose weight, quit smoking and control your blood pressure. Obesity, smoking and high blood pressure all increase your risk of deep vein thrombosis.
- Wear compression stockings to help prevent blood clots in the legs if your doctor recommends them.
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