What Should You Know About Deep Vein Thrombosis?
Deep vein thrombosis occurs when there’s a blood clot in the deep veins. DVT can be serious and cause life-threatening complications.
These complications can occur seemingly at random for example if a clot breaks off and travels into the pulmonary arteries. DVT can also be a pre-existing condition that becomes worsened in a car accident or another similar situation.
We’re also increasingly hearing about DVT clots because of the potential for them to form in patients critically ill with COVID-19.
The following are some of the things everyone should know about deep vein thrombosis.
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How Does DVT Occur?
When blood goes too slowly as it moves through your veins, it can create a clot. A clot is a clump of blood cells. Then, if that clot forms in a vein located deep within your body, it causes DVT.
DVT is most common in the pelvis, thigh, or leg, but it can occur elsewhere. DVT can be deadly.
Some of the things that may increase the likelihood of DVT include:
- Age: You can develop DVT at any age, but the risk is highest for people older than 40.
- Sitting: If you have a sedentary lifestyle and regularly sit for long periods, it may up the chances of developing DVT. It’s harder for your blood to move around freely when you sit for long periods. Similarly, if you’re on bed rest for any reason, it can lead to DVT.
- Pregnancy: When you’re pregnant, it puts more pressure on your pelvic veins and your leg veins, which makes DVT more likely during this time.
- Obesity: If you have a body mass index or BMI of 30 or higher, you have a greater chance of DVT.
Other factors increasing the likelihood of DVT are chronic health issues like cancer and heart disease, inherited blood disorders, and injury to a vein. The idea of injuries leading to DVT or DVT being worsened by injuries goes back to above discussion of car accidents.
Birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy also create a risk of DVT.
What Are the Symptoms of DVT?
Sometimes there are no signs or symptoms of DVT.
If there are symptoms, they may include warmth in an area where you’re experiencing pain, sudden arm or leg swelling, and pain or soreness when walking or even standing. Enlarged veins and skin that appears blue or red can also be signs of DVT.
One of the biggest risks of DVT is pulmonary embolism or PE. PE occurs if a clot breaks free and then begins to move around your bloodstream. The clot can get stuck in a blood vessel or the lungs.
Signs of PE include shortness of breath, chest pain, and coughing up blood.
What Are the Treatments for DVT?
The goal of DVT treatment is to help stop a blood clot from getting bigger or breaking off.
Blood thinners are the most common type of medicine used for DVT. They reduce your blood’s clotting ability.
With DVT, you might take blood thinners for around six months. Blood thinners can be taken as pills or injected, but they don’t break up current clots.
For large or severe clots, a doctor might prescribe a medicine that dissolves it. So-called clot busters can cause serious bleeding, so they’re typically meant for more severe blood clot cases.
COVID-19 and DVT
There has been increasing evidence that COVID-19 patients who are admitted to hospitals develop blood clots more often than might be expected among a population not ill with the virus. For example, there was a French study that found that 65% of hospital admitted COVID patients had lower extremity DVT when they were admitted.
Two days later that went up to 79%.
It’s believed that the increase in blood clots in hospitalized COVID patients could be related to either the inflammatory cytokine storm the virus can produce or the fact that complications of the virus can affect blood vessels.
To prevent blood clots, certain lifestyle changes can be helpful. For example, not sitting still for long periods of time can be helpful, as can getting exercise and choosing a healthy diet. If you are overweight or obese, losing weight can lower your risk of DVT, as can quitting smoking.
If you’ve had surgery or been on bed rest, try to move as soon as your doctor says is okay.
DVT can be a serious or deadly condition, so if it’s something you’re concerned about, always speak with a health care professional.