You’ve probably read horror stories about it in the headlines, but is deep vein thrombosis (DVT) as alarming as the newspapers say? Read on to find out more about this condition with guidance on how its treated and if you’re at risk.
What is DVT?
DVT is a blood clot that develops in a deep vein within the body. It usually affects the legs, causing swelling and pain. Without treatment, DVT can lead to a serious condition known as a pulmonary embolism. This is when some of the blood clot breaks down and travels in the blood stream where it can block blood vessels in the lungs.
Who does DVT affect and what causes it?
Although you can develop DVT at any age, it is more common in people over the age of 40. Other people at risk include those with a family history of DVT, pulmonary embolism, blood-clotting disorders or blood vessel damage. Conditions such as cancer, lung and heart disease can also increase the likelihood of developing the condition. DVT is also more likely to develop when people are bedridden or inactive for long time periods, such as during a long journey or recovering after an operation. Factors like being overweight, pregnant or taking the combined contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may also make your blood may clot more easily.
How is DVT treated?
If you have DVT there are a number of treatments available to you. They should help lessen your symptoms and reduce the chances of you suffering complications such as a pulmonary embolism. A pulmonary embolism is a blockage of one of your pulmonary arteries and happens when a blood clot, or part of it, from your leg or another part of your body travels to your lungs.
Go for a walk
It might sound too good to be true but taking up walking can really help reduce your symptoms and improve your blood circulation.
Your doctor might prescribe heparin or warfarin. They are known as ‘blood thinning’ medicines but they don’t actually thin your blood; instead they change the proteins within it which stops blood clots forming. They also prevent any blood clots that you currently have from getting bigger.
Other medicines that may help, and have fewer side effects, include rivaroxaban and apixaban tablets. Your doctor will usually recommend that you take anticoagulant medicines for at least three months and they will monitor you throughout, bringing you in for regular blood tests to see how it’s performing.
Inferior vena cava filters
If taking anticoagulant medicines isn’t an option for you, for whatever reason, you may need surgery to fit filters to the IVC (inferior vena cava) which is a large vein in your abdomen. This will stop any clots from making their way from your legs to your lungs or heart. The filters can remain in you permanently or be removed at a later date.
Wearing compression stockings every day for two years or more after you’ve been diagnosed with a DVT might not be glamourous but they improve blood flow from your leg to your heart and help reduce swelling and pain.
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