Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a very serious medical condition affecting the circulatory system. If left untreated, deep vein thrombosis can be deadly. Being aware of your risk factors for DVT can allow you to take preventative action now.
What Is Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)?
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot, also known as a thrombus, forms in one of the deep veins of the body. Most commonly, a clot will form in the veins of the leg. If you have DVT, serious complications can arise. If the clot breaks off from the vein wall, it may travel through your bloodstream to the lungs. Once there, the clot can cause a blockage known as a pulmonary embolism (PE). This can completely stop blood from reaching your lungs, which may be fatal.
Common symptoms of DVT include:
- Swelling of the legs or calves.
- Leg pain or tenderness, which may worsen when walking or standing.
- Higher warmth in the swollen portion of the leg.
- Redness or discoloration of the skin of the leg.
Many people do not realize they have DVT until they develop a pulmonary embolism. If you have unexplained shortness of breath, pain when you breathe deeply, rapid breathing, elevated heart rate, or begin coughing up blood, seek medical attention immediately. These symptoms are indicative of a possible pulmonary embolism.
Risk Factors for Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
There are numerous risk factors for DVT. Some of these can be changed by you, while others are risk factors that you cannot change. Examples of non-modifiable risk factors include:
- Age -older individuals are at higher risk for DVT.
- Cancer and certain cancer treatments.
- Inheriting a blood-clotting disorder.
- Heart failure.
- A family history of deep vein thrombosis.
- Inflammatory bowel disease.
- Paralysis or a long hospital stay that requires bed rest.
- Recent surgery or injury, which increases risk of blood clots.
On the other hand, some risk factors for DVT can be changed by you, including:
- Being overweight or obese. As being overweight increases the pressure on your veins, it is important to maintain a healthy body weight.
- Taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy. Certain hormone medications increase risk for DVT. Talk to your doctor about whether these medications are appropriate for you.
- Sitting for long periods of time. If you are driving or flying for long periods of time, take short breaks to move around and improve your blood flow.