March is National Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) Awareness Month. Throughout the month the ACP has been posting informative podcasts and articles to educate the general public about DVT and other vein disorders.
What is Deep Vein Thrombosis?
DVT is the formation of a blood clot in a deep vein, most commonly in the legs, causing partial or complete blockage of circulation.
Who is affected by DVT?
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 300,000-600,000 Americans are affected by DVT each year. The CDC estimates that, every year, 60,000-100,000 people suffering from DVT die from complications of the condition.
What are the complications of DVT?
The most serious complication of DVT is Pulmonary Embolism (PE), which occurs when a blood clot travels to the lungs through the blood stream. Depending on the size of the clot, PE can be fatal.
Am I at risk of DVT?
Major risk factors of DVT include:
- Slowing of blood flow, often occurring due to immobility (after long plane/car rides, highly immobile jobs, etc.)
- Damaged veins due to injury (major surgery, fractures, severe muscle injury, etc.)
- Increased estrogen levels, often due to medications (birth control, hormone treatments) or pregnancy
- A family history of DVT and PE
- Increased age
- Other chronic medical illnesses (heart disease, lung disease, etc.)
How do I know if I have DVT?
Symptoms of DVT include:
- Pain in the leg (most often the calf) that gets worse as you move
- Swelling in the leg
- Sudden onset of a leg cramp that does not subside
- Sudden onset of shortness of breath or pain in the chest when breathing deeply
- A red, tender, firm streak on the leg, especially over a varicose vein
How can I prevent DVT?
Don’t worry! DVT is easily preventable in many instances.
A healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise and a well-balanced diet can decrease the risk of DVT due to obesity and immobility.
Visit your doctor routinely and report any family history of vein disease. Your physician can take preventative measures when prescribing certain hormonal medications and catch signs of DVT in its early stages through monitoring your overall health.
If you are going to be immobile for long periods of time, such as during long flights or car rides, be sure to move around and stretch regularly throughout. Consider wearing compression gradient hosiery during periods of immobility.
How is DVT treated?
Anti-coagulants, which thin the blood, can be taken or injected to treat clots in the vein. Another way of treating DVT is through the use of graduated compression stockings, which will greatly reduce the likelihood of chronic swelling and pain in the leg.
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