Most people are aware that blood clots in the arteries can cause heart attacks and strokes, but far fewer know about the dangers posed by blood clots in the veins. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when blood clots that form in leg veins travel to the lungs.
Once there, the blood clots block the pulmonary artery or one of its branches, causing a pulmonary embolism which can result in chest pain, shortness of breath, anxiety and even sudden death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, DVT could affect as many as 900,000 people each year in the US and sudden death is the first symptom for about 25% of people who develop a pulmonary embolism.
The risks associated with deep vein thrombosis are very real, but physicians have identified circumstances that increase an individual’s risk of developing DVT to help those at risk monitor themselves for warning signs like swelling in the leg, leg pain, leg cramps and discoloration of the skin. Here are five indicators that you should be on the lookout for DVT.
1. You’re undergoing surgery
Arteries depend on the heart’s pumping to move blood, but veins rely on the movement of the body as a whole, muscular contractions and a network of valves.
When you’re laid up in bed, especially if it’s because of an injury that decreases blood flow to the lower body, you’re at increased risk of developing blood clots. Injuries that cause trauma to the inside of a blood vessel also increase the risk of developing DVT.
2. You already have a blood-clotting disorder
If you’ve inherited a blood-clotting disorder, your predisposition increases your risk of developing deep vein thrombosis. Sickle cell anemia causes the blood to thicken and clot more easily, increasing risk, as do conditions that create deficiencies in naturally occurring anticoagulants.
3. You’re expecting
The body increases the level of clotting proteins during pregnancy and decreases the level of anti-clotting proteins, probably to prevent excessive blood loss during birth. Combined with the decreased mobility sometimes associated with pregnancy, this increases the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis such that DVT and pulmonary embolism occur five to 10 times more frequently for pregnant women than other women of the same age, and 20 times more frequently following birth for a period of six weeks.
4. You’re obese
Experts aren’t sure if it’s the more sedentary lifestyle or the altered blood chemistry associated with obesity, but obese individuals are at increased risk for developing blood clots of all kinds, including deep vein thrombosis.
5. You take birth control pills
The extent of the risk increase depends on the hormones present in the specific medication, but a 2013 meta-analysis of 26 studies found that in every study, use of oral contraceptives was associated with an increased risk of venous thrombosis.
There are several other factors that increase an individual’s risk of developing deep vein thrombosis including heart trouble, high altitudes, cancer, autoimmune disease, advanced age, infections and lung disease. To understand your risk and learn what symptoms to look out for, visit www.myveinscreening.com, call 850-912-8249, or go to www.coastalveininstitute.com for more information.
At Coastal Vein Institute, a division of Coastal Vascular and Interventional, our mission is to provide the highest quality care with the most advanced technology available in vein treatment. Our Vascular Specialists perform thousands of procedures annually for patients with a range of vascular disorders at eleven hospitals, our state-of-the-art outpatient center, and thirteen office locations along the Gulf Coast of Alabama and Florida. For more information about our physicians, locations, and treatment options, call 850-479-4223 or visit www.coastalvi.com.