There are simple steps patients can take to reduce their chances of developing a potentially dangerous blood clot.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) refers to a blood clot that forms deep in a leg vein. Roughly 600,000 Americans develop DVT every year, according to the Surgeon General. Not only does DVT cause painful swelling and discolored skin, it can also lead to a potentially serious pulmonary embolism (PE) if the clot travels to the lungs.
Normally, platelets and proteins in the bloodstream form a clot when a blood vessel is cut. In this case, the clot prevents the body from losing too much blood. However, the danger arises when there is no damage to the vessel but a clot occurs anyway, likely due to a condition called venous insufficiency. Venous insufficiency occurs when the valves in the veins are unable to pump blood back up to the heart. As blood pools in the veins, there is a greater chance of clotting.
Several factors put people at a higher risk of DVT. These include a family or personal history of clotting disorders, being overweight, living a sedentary lifestyle, and smoking. The odds of DVT also rise when women are pregnant or undergoing hormone replacement therapy. People who are bedridden for long periods in the hospital must be carefully watched for DVT, as well.
Yet individuals at heightened risk of DVT can lower their chances with some prevention tips. Getting treatment at the first signs of DVT can also help avoid a more serious condition, such as a PE.
By following these precautions, patients can reduce their chances of developing blood clots.
- Don’t Sit or Stand for Too Long. Sitting or standing for long periods tends to cause blood to pool in the veins. In the case of long plane or car trips, get up and move around at least every two hours. When seated, encourage proper circulation by flexing ankles in a circular motion.
- Drink Plenty of Water. When muscles don’t get enough hydration, they tighten up and restrict blood flow in the veins. While drinking plenty of water is always recommended to maintain good blood flow, it’s especially true when traveling long distances. Another tip is to avoid alcohol, which can cause dehydration.
- Get Regular Exercise. Even a simple workout like walking for 30 minutes a day builds up the calf muscles so they can support the veins in pumping blood upwards. Further, since extra weight ups the chance of DVT, exercise can help maintain a healthy lifestyle and keep blood clots at bay.
- Wear Compression Stockings. Compression stockings aid circulation by squeezing the leg veins and forcing blood flow back to the heart. Available in drugstores and medical supply outlets, the strongest compression stockings can only be purchased with a doctor’s prescription.
- Treat Varicose Veins. According to a recent study, having varicose veins increases the odds of DVT by 5.3 times. By proactively treating varicose veins, patients may also decrease their risk of DVT
Anyone who suspects they have a blood clot should visit a doctor immediately. An ultrasound exam or a venogram — a test during which a dye is injected into a vein followed by an X-ray — are used to diagnose DVT. The condition is then treated with an anticoagulant medication.
We’re Vein Specialists
The staff at Premier Heart & Vein Care are experts in diagnosing and treating varicose veins and other vein disorders. We also can assess your risk of DVT and recommend therapies to prevent blood clots. Make an appointment today to ensure your vein health for many years to come.