Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): What Is It? Who’s at Risk? by Shana Laborde, LVN
Deep vein thrombosis, commonly referred to as DVT, occurs when a blood clot (thrombus) forms in one or more of the deep veins in your body, usually in your calves, thighs or legs. The most common cause of DVT is poor blood flow. When blood slows down, it starts to pool together, which causes cells to stick together, forming a clot. A blood clot in the deep veins raises concern because a piece can break off of the clot and travel to the heart, lungs or brain. The loose clot is referred to as an embolus. An embolus that travels to the lungs is called a pulmonary embolism. This can block blood flow and damage the lungs or even cause death. Clots that are formed in the thighs are more likely to break off and travel than clots in the calves.
There are two main types of blood clots. Arterial thrombosis (blood clot in the heart) forms in arteries and can cause stroke or heart attack. Venous thrombosis (blood clot in the veins) are formed in a vein and can cause pain and swelling.
Now that we know what DVT is, who’s more at risk? It’s possible for anyone to develop DVT, but there are factors that increase the chances. The most common risk factors are:
- Cancer patients who receive chemotherapy or radiation.
- People with heart disease or lung disease.
- People who have hepatitis.
- People who have rheumatoid arthritis.
- People who are overweight or obese.
- People who smoke.
- Throbophilia, a condition that causes blood to clot more easily.
If you have an operation or surgical procedure your risk increases for developing a blood clot, because of inactivity or being less active than normal. It’s important to stay as active as possible so your blood flow does not slow down and have a chance to form a clot.
Common treatments for DVT include medications that thin the blood and compression stockings to help increase blood flow. Anticoagulants, or blood thinners, decrease the clotting power of blood and help slow down or prevent the growth of a clot. The most common blood thinner used is warfarin. It’s a pill that’s taken orally. Some people may be prescribed it for weeks or months and some people will take it daily for the rest of their lives. The length of treatment depends on the reason it was prescribed. Blood tests are required when people are on warfarin to see how well the drug is working. The test measures the time it takes for the blood to clot. Depending on the results your doctor may adjust the dosage. When patients are first prescribed warfarin, tests may be required a few times per week. When the patient is on a regular dose, tests may be ordered only every four weeks. It may take a while to get the dose just right so it’s important to get your blood tested often.
Again, anyone is susceptible of getting a blood clot or developing DVT in their lifetime. There are however, tips to help avoid DVT:
- Keep your weight down.
- If you’re seated for a long time (think long airplane flight or road trip), move your legs often and flex your calves to keep your blood pumping. Walk down the aisle a couple of times at least every hour or so or take frequent breaks while driving and walk around a little outside.
- When an injury occurs and you’re stuck in bed, start moving around as much and as soon as possible. Walking is very good for you.
This condition is preventable you know!
The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.