Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is a large blood clot (blood thickening) that forms in one or more of the deep veins in your body. DVT occurs most commonly in the leg; but it can occur anywhere in the body, such as the veins in the arm, abdomen, or around the brain. DVT occurs when your blood cells stick together in a deep vein, forming a blood clot. Anything that keeps your blood from circulating properly can cause a clot, including injury, illness, immobility, certain inherited conditions, and lifestyle factors.
The Symptoms of DVT
Symptoms of DVT range from mild to severe and may involve the foot, ankle, calf, whole leg or arm. The most common symptoms are: pain, swelling, discoloration (bluish or reddish) and warmth. It is important to note that approximately 50% of people with DVT experience no symptoms at all.4
A pulmonary embolism (PE), which is life threatening, can occur if the blood clot detaches and travels to the lungs. Signs and symptoms of a PE include difficulty breathing, faster than normal or irregular heartbeat, chest pain or discomfort, which usually worsens with a deep breath, or coughing, and very low blood pressure.
If you think you have DVT or PE it is crucial to contact your healthcare professional because complications can lead to serious health conditions and sometimes death.
When DVT Turns Deadly
DVT itself is not life threatening. However, when untreated, a blood clot can break off and travel to the lung which is known as a pulmonary embolism (PE). DVTs and PEs are known collectively as venous thromboembolism (VTE).
With PE, because the clots block blood flow to the lungs, it can be life-threatening. The portions of lung served by each blocked artery are robbed of blood and may die. This is known as pulmonary infarction. This makes it more difficult for your lungs to provide oxygen to the rest of your body.
PEs can be life-threatening. About one-third of people with undiagnosed and untreated pulmonary embolism do not survive.5 When a pulmonary embolism is diagnosed and treated immediately, chances of death decrease.
Everyday Blood Clot Prevention
Blood clots (DVT) most often occur in people who are more immobile or who have had recent surgery or an injury. Blood clots are serious and may require a prescribed prevention methods such medication or a more non-invasive approach as compression therapy. However on a daily basis some tips to help prevent bloods clots are:
- Stay active. Immobility for extended periods increases the risk of developing clots. If you’ve been sitting for a long period of time (such as work or for long-distance travel) stop and take a break to stretch your legs.
- Maintain an ideal body weight.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes, socks, or stockings.
- Raise your legs 6 inches above your heart from time to time.
- Change your position often.
- Do not stand or sit for more than 1 hour at a time.
- Eat less salt.
- Try not to bump or hurt your legs and try not to cross them.
If you have a family history of blood clots it is important to talk to your doctor. It is also important to learn the risk factors and know if you are at risk.