Deep Vein Thrombosis

Deep Vein Thrombosis, better known as DVT, is a fairly common condition. However, it can be potentially life-threatening.

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Deep vein thrombosis (DVT; “thrombus” means blood clot) is the condition in which a blood clot forms in one of the deep veins, usually as a blood clot in the leg. The clot may either block the vein completely or partially. The condition is more common in the elderly and the obese. Women are more prone to it.

DVT has gained prominence in recent years after headline reports of fatalities among long-haul flight passengers who have collapsed and died soon after disembarking their flights. This has led to DVT being dubbed “economy-class syndrome”.

Deep Vein Thrombosis Causes and Risk Factors 

Three major factors play a part in the development of DVT:
Venous stasis (the pooling of blood in the veins). This may be the result of immobility, old age or heart failure
Damage of the vein due to trauma or local pressure
Increased coagulability of the blood (tendency of blood to clot), which is sometimes seen in clotting disorders, pregnancy, the use of oral contraceptives, dehydration and in some cancers

Sitting for long periods without exercising your leg muscles is a major factor. This does not necessarily have to be in a cramped position; passengers in first-class seats in a plane have been known to develop DVT. Similarly, DVT has been seen in students sitting for many hours preparing for exams.

Risk factors for DVT include:
Age above 60
Immobility for long periods of time, such as flying in an airplane, taking a long car trip or recovering in bed after surgery
Inherited blood-clotting problem
Injury or surgery that reduces blood flow to a body part
Pregnancy or post-partum
Overweight/obesity
Presence of varicose veins
Previous or current cancer
Intake of birth control pills or hormone therapy
Presence of central venous catheter

Deep Vein Thrombosis Symptoms 

The symptoms of DVT include pain, tenderness, swelling and redness surrounding the area of the blood clot (usually around the calves of the legs). These symptoms may not be present immediately with clot formation. In some cases, it may take up to two weeks before the symptoms become apparent.

Complications 

Deep vein thrombosis in itself is not that serious. The danger occurs when the blood clot or a part of it breaks off and travels to the lungs where it can block an artery. This complication is called pulmonary embolism. It is a life-threatening situation so emergency medical attention is imperative.

Dislodged clots can travel to other areas and cause stroke or damage to organs depending on where they get lodged.

Deep Vein Thrombosis Treatment 

DVT is treated with thrombolytic agents, which dissolve clots that have already formed, and/or anticoagulants — these are agents which prevent further clot formation. 

Prevention Tips 

Try to avoid sitting in a cramped position for too long
Wriggle your toes and move your ankles and knees
Massage muscles of the lower limbs
Don't cross your legs or sit on the edge of your seat
Get up and walk along the aisle at least once an hour
Wear loose clothing
Avoid stockings or socks with tight bands
Drink plenty of water
Avoid alcohol
Don't smoke
Wear special support stockings designed for travelling



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