While blood clots can actually prove beneficial in some instances, in others they may be deadly to the afflicted. An ill-fated blood clot traveling throughout one’s body can cause a stroke, heart attack, and in the case of deep vein thrombosis, can result in devastating lung failure.
Being aware of the early warning signs of deep vein thrombosis is vital for those at risk of developing this condition. Early diagnosis can sometimes be a matter of life and death, especially for older patients or those already suffering from serious afflictions. The following information can be extremely helpful in identifying symptoms of deep vein thrombosis before they develop into a legitimate medical emergency.
What Is Deep Vein Thrombosis?
While deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can be greatly damaging, it remains misunderstood by many. According to studies undertaken by the American Public Health Association, a mere one-quarter of adults actually claimed an awareness of the disease. More importantly, very few of those surveyed were actively aware of this condition’s signs and symptoms.
DVT occurs when a blood clot forms deep within the venous system. While clots can form in any number of places, they typically occur in the lower extremities, such as thighs and legs. Clots forming here have a greater chance of breaking free and moving to other parts of the body.
DVT can be a very serious concern due to the risk of developing a pulmonary embolism (PE) if a clot should break off. This is a blockage within the lung artery that can greatly damage lung tissues, as well as lower oxygen levels within the blood.
Approximately 60,000 to 100,000 Americans die annually from PE, making it a very real concern for those at high risk. For those who do survive, the remaining health issues can last for extended periods of time, requiring even more medical care in the future.
Signs and Symptoms of DVT
While many of those suffering from DVT fail to show the onset of symptoms, there are a few things to look out for if you are at risk. Such symptoms typically include:
Fatigue or Numbness – A feeling of weakness or fatigue in one’s limbs can be an early warning sign of DVT, particularly if this is a newly occurring symptom.
Pain While Walking or Standing – Pain is another common indicator of DVT. Feelings of discomfort may be most evident after walking or standing for prolonged periods.
Swelling – A significant amount of swelling in one or both legs can also signal immediate medical intervention is necessary.
Warmth or Discoloration – In some cases, those suffering from DVT will see visible redness around the afflicted area. Skin may also be warm to the touch when dealing with larger clots.
Who Is Most at Risk?
When it comes to DVT, there are a number of associated risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing blood clots in the legs. The prime factors in developing this condition are extended periods of immobility, significant injury, and certain clotting disorders which can increase the chances of DVT occurring.
Immobilization can have a variety of causes. Obesity can be a factor when it greatly limits movement on a regular basis. Those leading less active lifestyles are at a greater risk of developing blood clots, which can result in far more serious issues. Obesity is also linked to diabetes, which is another risk factor in the formation of blood clots.
Additionally, injuries can play a role in developing dangerous blood clots. Even minor leg injuries have been known to increase the risk of clots, including things like muscle pulls and ankle sprains. According to studies, approximately 8% of serious clots resulted from relatively minor leg injuries, meaning they did not require casts or other immobilization techniques.
Certain medical conditions are also related to the formation of blood clots. These include things like hepatitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and genetic conditions resulting in increased clotting. Those undergoing cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, can also be at greater risk.
What About Extended Air Travel?
Under the right conditions, lengthy flights can contribute to an increased risk of DVT. Most airplanes offer little leg room, especially for those seated in economy classes. This risk can be heightened for passengers with a greater chance of forming clots in the first place, such as those suffering from the conditions listed above.
For flights eight hours or longer, it’s a good idea for passengers to stretch their legs at least once an hour. This can ease the burden of cramped seating, while also increasing blood flow to the lower extremities. It’s also recommended that high-risk passengers avoid alcoholic beverages on their flights, in addition to drinking lots of fluids before and during air travel.
What Are Some Treatment Options?
Medications are a common treatment of DVT, usually in the form of blood thinners aimed at reducing the size of a clot. Anticoagulants can also prevent new clots from forming, which is beneficial for those at higher risk. Self-care methods are another good option available to patients. Compression stockings worn on the legs can decrease the amount of swelling and pain experienced as a result of DVT and elevation can also prove helpful in this regard.
In more dire circumstances, patients may undergo catheter-directed thrombolysis. This method utilizes a catheter inserted into the vein with the aim of breaking up clots. While this can be effective, it does include a higher risk of excessive bleeding and stroke.
A Proactive Approach to Health
Those invested in healthy living take care to eat right, get enough exercise and make sure they are well rested throughout the day. While meeting these goals is extremely important, being vigilant of possible signs and symptoms of damaging maladies is also essential. Doing so can allow patients to get much-needed medical treatment before a serious complication occurs.
This awareness is especially important when it comes to deep vein thrombosis, which can have grave consequences if left untreated. Patients that take a proactive approach to health are better equipped to deal with a number of conditions, thereby ensuring an increased quality of life.