Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in one of the deep veins in the body. Blood clots that develop in a vein are also known as venous thrombosis. DVT usually occurs in a deep leg vein, a larger vein that runs through the muscles of the calf and the thigh. It can cause swelling in the leg and this can lead to a pulmonary embolism.
What is a pulmonary embolism?
This is when a piece of blood clot breaks off in the bloodstream and blocks one of the blood vessels in the lungs. Such lung clots can be fatal. The symptoms might include breathlessness and chest pain and even sudden collapse.
Who is at risk of DVT?
Anyone can develop DVT yet it becomes more likely with age. But other risk factors include a previous venous thromboembolism, a family history of thrombosis, medical conditions such as cancer and heart failure, being overweight or inactivity such as lying in bed or while travelling. DVT in pregnancy is also a risk and women are advised to keep hydrated and gently active so as to avoid periods of immobilisation.
Stopping smoking, losing weight and doing regular exercise to improve circulation in your legs are all good ways to cut the risk of DVT.
It’s very important to see a doctor if you suspect that you have DVT. There is a lot of help available. But the reason you must act immediately if you think that you have DVT is because it can lead to a pulmonary embolism which is a life-threatening emergency.
DVT and flying
This is one risk area that is now more publicised. Long flights where the person doesn’t move and becomes dehydrated and/or consumes alcohol and caffeine all raise the risks of DVT. Possible solutions to combat the risk include increasing water intake while onboard (and avoiding alcohol/caffeine), walking around the aircraft for short spells, wearing compression stockings to boost circulation in the legs, and perhaps even avoiding sleep for too long because of the risk associated with such immobility.
So what are DVT Symptoms and treatments?
Sometimes, there are no symptoms but it is still important to be aware of the signs and risk factors. The indications might be pain, swelling, tenderness or a heavy ache in your leg. Usually, it will be around the calf. The skin might be warm in the area of the clot and show a redness, often at the back of the leg below the knee. Normally, DVT affects one leg and the pain might worsen if you bend the foot upwards towards your knee.
A blood test or ultra sound will tell you if you have a blood clot and treatment will usually involve taking anticoagulant medicine. This also helps stop part of the blood clot breaking off and entering the bloodstream.
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