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How to Prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

DVT is a blood clot that forms deep in your veins, most often in your leg. It can partially or completely block blood flow back to the heart and damage the one-way valves in your veins. It can also break free and travel to major organs, such as your lungs, which can be very dangerous. About 1 in 10 people die from DVT complications.

About 350,000 Americans are diagnosed with these blood clots each year, and almost as many have them and don't know it. Even if you're at risk, you can take steps to prevent DVT.

Recommended Related to DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis)

Understanding DVT: An Overview

A deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in a vein inside a muscle. Usually it's in a lower leg, thigh, pelvis, or arm. "Typically, a person calls saying, 'I've had 3 or 4 days of swelling in one of my legs, and it won't go down,'" says Terri Remy, MD, of Primary Care Alexandria in Virginia. Symptoms usually include swelling and sometimes pain and tenderness. But you won't always have them.

Read the Understanding DVT: An Overview article > >

Everyday Living and Medical Conditions

Exercise regularly -- daily, if possible. Walking, swimming, and bicycling are all great activities. Exercise will also help you manage your weight, along with eating a low-fat, high-fiber diet with lots of vegetables and fruits.

If you smoke, quit! Nicotine patches, gums, or sprays and prescription medications, along with support groups, can make kicking the habit easier.

Check your blood pressure at least once a year, more often if your doctor says to. Follow his instructions about taking medication if you need it. Exercise, eating well, and quitting smoking will help control your blood pressure, too.

Tell your doctor about any blood-clotting problems you or a close family member has had.

Women on birth control pills or hormone-replacement therapy or who are pregnant should talk to their doctors about their options to avoid DVT.

After Surgery or While on Bed Rest

Your surgeon will let you know if DVT could be a problem for you. Sometimes, the risk is greatest right after surgery and for about 10 days afterward. Or you may get DVT because you're less active in the months following the procedure.

Your doctor may prescribe blood thinners, also called anticoagulants:

  • Apixaban (Eliquis)
  • Dabigatran (Pradaxa)
  • Edoxaban (Savaysa)
  • Fondaparinux (Arixtra)
  • Heparin
  • Rivaroxaban (Xarelto)
  • Warfarin (Coumadin)

When you're in the operating room, local anesthesia that numbs just the area the doctor is working on might be better than general anesthesia that knocks you out. You may want to wear compression sleeves on your legs to help keep your blood flowing.

During recovery, make the foot of your bed taller than the pillow end. Do any exercises, such as leg lifts and ankle movements, that your doctor recommends. Take your pain medicine to make it easier. Get out of bed and start ramping up your activity as soon as you can safely.

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