If blood moves too slowly through your veins, it can cause a clump of blood cells called a clot. When a blood clot forms in a vein deep inside your body, it causes what doctors call “deep vein thrombosis” (DVT). This is most likely to happen in your lower leg, thigh, or pelvis. But it can occur in other parts of your body, too.
DVT can lead to major health problems. In some cases, it can be fatal. That’s why if you think you have one, you must see a doctor right away.
What Are the Signs?
Not everyone with DVT shows symptoms. But you might notice any of the following:
- Leg or arm swelling that comes on without warning
- Pain or soreness when you stand or walk
- Warmth in the area that hurts
- Enlarged veins
- Skin that looks red or blue
Some people don’t know they have DVT until this happens. Signs of PE include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain that’s worse when you take a deep breath
- Coughing up blood
- Increased heart rate
What Causes DVT?
Many things can increase your chances of getting DVT. Here are some of the most common:
Age. DVT can happen at any age, but your risk is greater after age 40.
Sitting for long periods. When you sit or lie down for long stretches of time, the muscles in your lower legs stay lax. This makes it hard for blood to circulate, or move around, like it should. Bed rest and long flights or car rides can put you at risk.
Certain inherited blood disorders. Some conditions that run in families cause your blood to be thicker than normal or to clot more than it should.
Injury to a vein. This could be due to a broken bone, surgery, or other trauma.
How Is DVT Treated?
Your doctor will want to stop the blood clot from getting bigger or breaking off and heading towards your lungs. She’ll also want to reduce your chances of getting another DVT.
This can be done in one of three ways:
If your symptoms are severe or your clot is very large, your doctor may give you a strong medicine to dissolve it. These medications, called thrombolytics, have serious side effects like sudden bleeding. That’s why they’re not prescribed very often.
Inferior Vena Cava (IVC) filter. If you can’t take a blood thinner or if one doesn’t help, your doctor may insert a small, cone-shaped filter inside your inferior vena cava. That’s the largest vein in your body. The filter can catch a large clot before it reaches your lungs.
Compression stockings. These special knee socks are very tight at the ankle and get looser as they reach your knee. This pressure prevents blood from pooling in your veins. You can buy some types at the drug store. But your doctor may prescribe a stronger version that must be fitted by an expert.
Can I Prevent DVT?
Simple lifestyle changes may help lower your odds of getting one. Try these simple tips to keep your blood circulating like it should:
Get regular check-ups. And, if your doctor has prescribed a medicine to control a health problem, take it as directed.
Don’t sit for too long. If you’re traveling for 4 hours or more, take breaks to flex and stretch your lower leg muscles. If you’re on a flight, walk up and down the aisle every half hour. On long car drives, pull over each hour to stretch. Wear loose-fitting clothes and drink plenty of water.
Plan surgery after-care. Talk to your doctor about what you can do to prevent DVT after surgery. She might suggest you wear compression stockings or take blood thinners. You’ll also want to get out of bed and start moving around.