Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is caused by slowed circulation and allows blood to pool in the deep veins of the legs or arms. A clot, called a thrombus, may break off and travel to the lungs or heart and cause a pulmonary embolism, heart attack, or stroke. Patients recovering from surgery, travelers, or office workers who sit for long periods need regular exercise breaks to prevent deep vein thrombosis. Those with medical problems and who take medications that make them prone to DVT should talk to their physician about preventive care.
DVT is more common in the leg and pelvic veins than in the arms. Symptoms include a pain like a heavy, dull cramp that won’t go away, redness and warmth, numbness in the limb, and fever and swelling. If the limb becomes pale, bluish, or cold, circulation may be seriously blocked. Shortness of breath or chest pain accompanying these symptoms may signal pulmonary embolism.
A thrombus traveling to the lungs can lodge in the pulmonary artery. This reduces the lung’s ability to get sufficient oxygen into the blood, causing strain on the heart and oxygen deprivation. The primary symptom is shortness of breath accompanied by lightheadedness, chest pain, and possibly fainting. The condition can recur, making actions to prevent deep vein thrombosis important for continued health.
DVT is a risk for people who have medical conditions that impair their mobility. Hospitals encourage those who have had surgical procedures to be up and around as soon as possible to prevent deep vein thrombosis from the circulation-slowing effects of anesthesia. Pregnancy and obesity both increase blood pressure in the legs. Certain medications alone or in combination can cause DVT. If medications are causing the problem, both the physician and pharmacist may try different compounds to help prevent deep vein thrombosis.
People who are prone to DVT can reduce the causes of poor circulation. Discomfort on long airplane flights or car trips can be relieved by either getting up or out and moving around, or at least moving their legs and feet to contract the calf muscles and keep blood from pooling. For women who take birth control pills, smoking greatly increases the risk of thrombosis, especially over the age of 35. Stopping smoking helps prevent deep vein thrombosis and other health conditions that may end up contributing to it.
Obese people should begin regular exercise programs with the support of a medical professional. Walking is a good beginning exercise and will aid weight loss as well as improve overall health. Compression stockings squeeze the leg muscles to help those at high risk avoid DVT. Those who are prone to blood clots or recovering from one may have to take blood-thinning medication to prevent a recurrence.