Millions of Americans seek medical attention for Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) each year. DVT can be a very dangerous condition. It occurs when a blood clot (thrombus) occurs in a deep vein, usually in the legs. Clots in deep veins require immediate medical attention because they can break loose and travel through the body’s bloodstream.
The dangers of embolisms
When a clot breaks free, it is called an embolism. Embolisms can travel to different parts of the body, including the brain, lungs and heart. A clot in the lungs, known as a pulmonary embolism, can be life-threatening. DVT can also be very damaging to the leg. The main symptoms are swelling, aching, and a change in color of the leg. Sometimes there are no symptoms, especially with small clots.
You should be aware of the risk factors for DVT, which include:
- A family history of blood clots
- Fractures in the pelvis or legs
- Obesity and smoking
- Recent surgery, usually hip, knee or female pelvic surgery
Sitting for long periods when traveling can also be a risk factor for DVT. If you are on a long plane flight, car, bus, or train ride, many doctors recommend getting up and walking every hour. Pressure stockings can also be used to help improve blood flow in your legs.
A range of treatments
Treatment for DVT usually involves blood thinning medications or minimally invasive surgical procedures. For patients with certain high risk factors, a vena cava filter can be inserted into the body to prevent a potential embolism from traveling to the lungs and causing damage. Be sure to see a medical professional as soon as possible if you experience symptoms of DVT.