ARE YOU AT RISK FOR DVT?
DVT is a blood clot that usually forms in the deep veins of the lower leg or calf which can block the flow of blood back up. A DVT may cause leg pain or swelling, but can also present no symptoms. DVT is not usually life threatening, but it can be if the blood clot breaks loose and goes into the lungs. This is known as a pulmonary embolism (PE).
Generally, a DVT is caused by a combination of two out of three underlying conditions:
- Slow or sluggish blood flow through a major vein
- A tendency for a person’s blood to clot quickly, a condition that sometimes is hereditary
- Irritation or inflammation of the lining surface of the vein.
DVT Risk Factors
- prolonged sitting or restricted mobility such as long distance travel (see Travel)
- Age over 40
- Surgery (especially orthopedic) or major injury
- Prolonged bed rest or immobility
- High blood pressure
- Heart attacks or stroke
- Congestive heart failure
- Chronic respiratory failure
- Excessive weight
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Varicose veins
- High estrogen levels such as in pregnancy or when using birth control pills
- Some forms of cancer
The risk factors are cumulative – the more you have, the greater your risk.
- Leg pain and hardness of the calf. The calf's pain may cause walking to be difficult.
- A feeling of heat, a slightly blue or red aspect of the skin may also be observed
- Swelling in calf muscles, ankle, foot or thigh – especially in one leg
Please note, that nearly 50% of all DVT cases have no recognized symptoms!
When symptoms described above occur, you must go see a doctor quickly in order to confirm the diagnosis which can be made with a simple ultrasound scan that is painless and risk-free. A specific blood test may be performed to measure "D-dimer" which is a sign of recent clotting. Early diagnosis and treatment greatly reduces the risk of serious complications.
Complications of a DVT
Nearly 30% of DVT patients will have a recurrent event within 10 years and the greatest risk is within the first 6 to 12 months. Source: Heit J, et Al. Arch Internal Medicine 2000.160: 761-768.
Due to this high risk, patients are more closely monitored. A patient is prescribed to wear 30-40 mmHg graduated compression stockings or socks to help blood flow and prevent the development of another clot formation.
Pulmonary embolism (PE) is another complication from a DVT. It occurs when the blood clot, or part of it (emboli), detaches itself and migrates to the pulmonary arteries in the lungs. Most patients with a DVT have an unrecognized pulmonary embolism. The search for its presence is not mandatory as treatment of DVT and pulmonary embolism is the same. Pulmonary embolism is the most serious consequence of DVT because it may be fatal.
Tips to prevent DVT
- Exercise regularly, including stretching and leg movement when travelling
- Quit smoking
- Maintain a normal body weight
- Keep a healthy diet
- Wear compression socks or stockings
The treatment of a deep venous thrombosis will consist of taking anticoagulant drugs and wearing 20 to 30 mmHg S medical compression stockings. This will eliminate the symptoms rapidly and durably and allow to stay mobile and pursue every day activities. Both components of the treatment will last for several weeks or months.
Compression therapy is the application of controlled graduated external pressure to the limb to reduce venous pressure within the limb. This external pressure acts as a layer of muscle by gently squeezing the stretched vein walls together allowing the valves to close. The cavity of the vein is reduced, thereby restoring blood flow to a normal state and aiding overall circulation.
Medical compression stockings provide relief from pain and swelling caused by a DVT. Physicians recommend wearing 30-40 mmHg compression stockings for at least 2 years after the initial DVT diagnosis. By doing so, the risk of developing another clot is reduced by as much as 50%.
Benefits of compression
According to Brandjes DP et. Al. Lancet 1997 and the American Public Health Association White Paper, the risk of developing another clot is reduced by as much as 50% when wearing medical compression stockings.
Wearing graduated compression stockings helps reducing the risk of DVT by improving the venous blood return.