March is DVT Awareness Month

March is Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) Awareness Month and a good opportunity to review your risk factors for developing potentially deadly blood clots known as deep vein thrombosis or DVT.

Risk Factors For DVT

Several factors can put you at risk for developing DVT. Four factors that may provoke a clot include:

  1. Trauma or injury
  2. Surgery
  3. Needing to sit or lay for extended periods (such as a hospital stay or long flight)
  4. Cancer

If you experience any of the above, talk to your health care provider about precautions you can take to prevent the formation of a blood clot.

Other risk factors include:

  • Advanced aged
  • Smoking
  • Hormonal therapies including birth control, estrogen replacement therapy, testosterone and steroids
  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Certain diseases, such as inflammatory bowel, heart, liver or kidney disease
  • Genetics

About five percent of the population has a condition known as thrombophilia—a condition in which the blood has an increased tendency to clot—and many who are afflicted have no idea. If you or an immediate family member has had unexplained blood clots (not caused by one of the four provoking factors listed above), stroke or heart attack (especially at a young age), or recurrent phlebitis, you should be tested for thrombophilia.

While some risk factors are easier to control than others, understanding your overall risk allows you to make the necessary lifestyle changes to reduce it, and can affect treatment options for you if you are injured or ill.

DVT Symptoms

DVT is potentially life-threatening because a clot can block the blood supply back to the heart or break off and travel to the lungs. DVT can be asymptomatic, but you should seek care if you experience leg swelling, pain and discomfort with no obvious cause, like an injury or arthritis. The presence of a clot can be revealed using ultrasound, a pain-free imaging technique.

The good news is that in the majority of cases, DVT is ruled out—most patients are instead found to have venous insufficiency (abnormal blood circulation). However, it’s best to err on the side of caution and have symptoms checked. Left untreated, venous insufficiency can lead to varicose veins and other complications, such as venous stasis, so diagnosis is still key. Treatment may include medications, compression socks or procedures to eliminate the problem veins.

If you experience pain and pressure in your legs, have noticed the formation of spider or varicose veins, or have risk factors for thrombophilia or deep vein thrombosis, talk to your doctor or call us to schedule an evaluation.