By Samuel P. Martin, MD, FACS
Did you know that DVT affects about 600,000 people a year, and is the leading cause of preventable hospital deaths in the United States, the leading cause of maternal death in the United States, and causes chronic lifelong symptoms in half of all affected individuals?
What is a DVT?
A Deep Vein Thrombosis, or DVT, is a blood clot within the deep veins (those surrounded by muscle in the legs) or the veins in the pelvis. Clots can occur in the deep veins of the arms but they are rare. The clot causes obstruction to blood flow in the vein typically associated with the upper thigh or sometimes behind the knee. If a blood clot breaks free, it will move through your bloodstream and can get stuck in your lungs or your brain. It can be fatal. The clot can be completely asymptomatic (“silent”) in the affected vein, or it can cause:
- Sudden leg swelling
- Pain or aching in the leg
- Extraordinary warmth or coolness of the leg in the area of the pain
- Skin discoloration of the lower leg
Consult your physician immediately if you have any of the symptoms above.
What Causes a DVT?
Many things can increase your chance for developing a DVT. The development of DVT is associated with a variety of risk factors, including:
- Immobility (paralysis, prolonged travel)
- Medical conditions (cancer, heart failure, inflammatory disorders)
- Surgery (taking longer than 6 hours or major surgeries of the knee, hip, or abdomen )
- Increased estrogen (pregnancy, hormone replacement, birth control)
- Other (varicose veins, clotting disorders, smoking, obesity, advanced age)
Risk can be reduced by:
- Maintaining a ideal body weight
- Staying active and exercising regularly
- Abstaining from smoking
- Knowing your risk factors and discussing them with your health care provider
Treatment of DVT
Clots in the deep veins require medicinal therapy. Your provider may prescribe an anticoagulant or blood thinner such as Heparin or Coumadin. You should try to stay active, wear compression stockings and elevate your legs when sitting.
Resolve to get up, get out, keep moving and wear your compression for healthy, beautiful legs.