3 Things You Can Do To Prevent The Dangers of Deep Vein Thrombosis aka Blood Clots
While the term “deep vein thrombosis” may be new to you, chances are very slim the term “blood clot” is. Blood clots come in a number of different shapes, sizes, and forms, but today we are going to focus on the blood clots that form in leg veins, more formally known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
You may be surprised to hear that 2.5 million Americans each year suffer from blood clots in their leg veins — clots that are not only a health concern, but that are outright dangerous. And of those 2.5 million people with blood clots, about 600,000 are hospitalized for DVT.
Rather than become another number in that deep vein thrombosis statistic, read on to learn more about this vein problem, and educate yourself on the dangers of the clot.
Deep Vein Thrombosis Risks
The blood clots that result in DVT can be caused by a number of things — really anything that keeps your blood from being able to circulate as it normally does. While this typically includes things such as vein injury, surgery, and medication, there are additional things that put people at higher risk for developing deep vein thrombosis than others.
One of the biggest factors is age. DVTs are found most commonly in adults 60 years of age or older, but that does not mean they can’t (and don’t) happen to younger people. In addition to age, here are a number of things that are likely to put you at risk of DVT:
- Bowel disease. Diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis that affect the bowels.
- Heart failure. Since people with heart failure are already suffering from limited heart and lung function, their risk of DVT increases.
- Cancer. Different types of cancer up your chances of developing substances in your blood that can lead to clotting. In addition, some of the treatments used for cancer can also increase clotting.
- Inheriting a disorder. It is possible to inherit a disorder that causes blood to easily clot.
- Bed rest. The longer your legs stay in one place, with minimal movement, the higher your risk of developing clots due to the fact that your muscles are not able to contract to properly keep your blood circulating.
- Injury. Injuring your veins increases the chances of clotting.
- Smoking. Smoking causes some serious problems with blood clotting and circulation.
- Pregnancy. The extra weight and pressure of pregnancy increases pressure on your veins, particularly those in your pelvis and your legs. And, the risk of clots from pregnancy doesn’t stop once the baby is born — the risk exists for up to six weeks post-delivery.
- Oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy. Both of these put your blood at risk of clotting.
- Extra weight and obesity. Similar to pregnancy, extra weight causes the pressure on your body’s veins (especially those in your pelvis and legs) to increase, thus opening up the possibility for clotting.
- Family history. If a member of your family suffered from DVT, chances are higher that you will too.
- Sitting for too long (esp. when driving or flying). As mentioned above, when sitting still for long periods of time, your calf muscles are not able to do their job of contracting to help blood circulate. This can lead to blood clots in your calves.
As you can see, there quite a lot of ways to develop deep vein thrombosis, which is one of the main reasons why this problem affects the millions of people in the United States it does every year. Keep your eye out for signs and symptoms to stay on top of DVT.
Signs & Symptoms of DVT
When you first see the below signs, you may not automatically jump to thinking you have deep vein thrombosis. However, it is always advised to err on the safe side, and contact your doctor if you find yourself suffering from any of the following:
- Leg pain that feels like cramping or soreness
- Skin discoloration or redness on the legs
- Warm feeling in the legs
If you ignore these initial signs, you run the risk of some serious complications.
Complications of DVT
One of the scariest things about deep vein thrombosis is the high risk of the potentially-fatal pulmonary embolism (PE) that goes along with it. A pulmonary embolism happens when a piece of a clot from your deep vein thrombosis breaks off and travels, via your bloodstream, to your lungs. If big enough, this clot that is now in your lungs can completely prevent blood from getting to your lungs, which can lead to sudden death. Per statistics from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), every year, anywhere from 60,000 – 100,000 Americans die of this deep vein thrombosis complication. That is an astonishing number of people.
This typically occurs after DVT, and is defined as damage to your veins caused by the blood clot. This damage can take the form of:
- Leg pain
- Sores on your skin
- Discoloration of your skin And the chances of getting postphlebitic syndrome are quite high — about 40% of people with DVT will also suffer from this syndrome.
How to Prevent DVT
In order to avoid all the complications that could possibly come with deep vein thrombosis, and to keep from suffering from blood clots in the first place, there are some steps that you can take.
1. Maintain a safe and stable weight.
Because being overweight and worse, obese, increases your risk for deep vein thrombosis, make a point to keep your health in check. The best ways to do this are:
- Regular exercise
- Healthy diet
- 7-8 hours of sleep a night
- Low-stress levels
2. Keep from sitting still.
If you haven’t moved in four hours, you are long overdue to get up and get moving. Staying in one place for any longer than 4 hours increases your risk of DVT. Sometimes this can be tough — for example, when enduring an international flight and being stuck on an airplane. However, it is important that you get up during the flight multiple times, stretch, and get your blood flowing again.
3. Learn your risks.
The best way to do this is to see your doctor. Talk to him or her about what factors of your life are putting you at high risk of developing deep vein thrombosis and even worse, pulmonary embolism. Deep vein thrombosis is not a rare, obscure problem that affects a very small number of people. DVT affects millions of Americans every year, and you want to do your best to not be one of them.
If you have concerns about your vein health, and want to make sure you aren’t putting yourself at risk of developing DVT, call a Vein Clinics of America specialist near you today for a FREE consultation.