Deep Vein Thrombosis is a killer disease. In The USA alone the CDC or center for disease control estimates that between 300,000 to 600,000 are affected by DVT annually. Approximately 60, 000 to 100,000 Americans die from the disease and its related condition of pulmonary embolism every year. What are the major factors contributing to such an alarming trend of DVT. Only awareness and prevention of the contributing factors of DVT and PE can help people reduce this calamity that is slowly increasing with every passing year.
In a nutshell Deep vein Thrombosis is a blood clot that forms within one or more veins inside the human body usually in the leg. If not treated in time, it can break free from its location and affect the lungs where the condition is known as Pulmonary Embolism. Both DVT and PE go hand in hand. Unchecked, DVT ultimately causes stroke, heart attack and death.
1 An overview of Deep Vein Thrombosis
In our human physiology, tiny muscles lining an artery help it to withstand the pressures of blood travelling to and from the extremities of the body. But while our arteries can facilitate the return of blood to the heart, the veins do not possess an individual mechanism to do so. Veins need to rely on active muscles to apply pressure and contraction that enables the flow of blood back to the heart.
The human body has two sets of veins. Superficial veins that spread across the body just below the skin surface or epidermis and Veins that are found existing deep within muscles. It is here that blood clots can occur. The condition of deep vein thrombosis occurs when there is a blood clot in veins found deep in the body. In most cases, the legs.
2 How DVT can be fatal
The blood clot obstructs the free circulation of blood back to the heart and results in inflammation. When affecting the leg, it causes acute pain, swelling and a condition called Thrombophlebitis. When you find any of these symptoms occurring in your legs, rush to a doctor immediately. If undetected, the inflamed blood clot may travel through the veins and up to the lungs where it lodges itself and causes what is known as Pulmonary Embolism. This is when DVT can be fatal.
What are the factors contributing to blood clots in legs?
Deep Vein Thrombosis in Legs can be caused by any condition or event that results in the damage of blood vessels, hypercoagulability (Increased tendency of blood clotting) or changes in blood circulation. The largest possible factors contributing to such conditions are:
- Immobility or sitting for long periods of time such as in a long drive or flight or work
- Prolonged bed rest during illness or recovery
- Recent orthopedic surgery
- Heart attacks and cardiovascular disease
- High altitudes such as 14000 feet
- Undergoing estrogen therapy and birth control pills
- Old age
- Venous problems such as varicose veins and vasculitis
- Legs fractures and severe bruises
- Invasive procedures affecting veins
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Lung problems
- Increased RBC count
- Increased coagulation of blood
3 How blood clots lead to DVT
Even if the blood clots formed in deep veins remain stationary, they may not be fatal. Blood clotting is a natural process of the body’s preventive measures for healing wounds and injuries. Without such a condition, we would all bleed to death from a single wound where the condition is known hemophilia or the inability of blood clotting. It is when blood clots where it isn’t supposed to which causes Deep Vein Thrombosis. The most common areas for DVT to occur are the lower extremities like the thighs, calves and thighs.
What are the symptoms of Deep vein thrombosis?
- In DVT, inflamed blood clots cause noticeable symptoms such as
- A warm feeling around the calves or inflamed area
- Redness surrounding the clot
- Swelling of feet and areas below the calves
- Leg pain when bending feet
- Frequent muscle cramps especially in the calf area
- Discoloration of skin to white or blue tints
- Sudden appearance of varicose veins
In several instances of deep vein thrombosis, the veins can bulge and look like a thick piece of cord. Old age is one condition where rigidity causes veins to stretch. Valves usually fail which causes a vein to swell and appear distorted. Deep vein Thrombosis has also been known to be confused with common cellulitis or common infections. Regardless of such, whenever there is a sudden swelling in the feet or legs, a doctor should be consulted immediately.
Within the gamut of such a condition and the above mentioned symptoms, if there is any chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations and respiratory difficulty it could indicate that the clot has travelled which causes Pulmonary embolism. In such an event emergency diagnoses, tests and treatment is required.
When Deep vein Thrombosis is undetected or neglected, it leads to pulmonary Embolism a fatal complication of DVT. The condition can have serious and fatal consequences. Pieces of blood clots that are allowed to grow can break off and travel to the lungs where it obstructs blood flow thereby reducing oxygen distribution throughout the body. As mentioned earlier, it is this killer condition which affects the lives of almost 100,000 Americans every year and all because of the late detection of deep vein thrombosis.
Symptoms of Pulmonary Embolism
- Excessive sweating
- Sharp chest pains
- Increased pulse rates
- Breathing difficulty
- Blood in sputum
- Dizziness and fainting
Early detection and treatment of DVT can reduce or even prevent the risk of Pulmonary Embolism. In such cases medical blood thinners such as Heparin or Coumadin are used for reducing the tendency for hypercoagulation or increased blood clotting. DVT is diagnosed through a regular USG (ultrasonography) and a D-Dimer test which determines the presence of blood clots in the body.
What are the associated complications of Deep Vein Thrombosis?
Besides PE, deep Vein thrombosis can also lead to Post Phlebetic syndrome where the infected part of the leg is discolored permanently. Ulcers also begin to form around the ankles. Patients unable to consume blood thinners then need to undergo invasive procedures as a last resort of treatment for deep vein thrombosis. The procedure involves placing an inferior Vena Cava into the infected area that acts as a filter for preventing recurring and future blood clots from infecting the lung.
- Annual medical checkups
- Avoid misconceptions of blood thinners and intake of vitamin K by consulting your doctor
- Move around more often after surgery or prolonged illness
- Don’t sit in one place for prolonged periods. Move around at intervals
- Use compression stockings for improving blood circulation during hospital confinement
- Exercise regularly where walking is absolutely fine
- Lose weight if obese or even overweight
- Stop smoking
- Perform heel toe exercise when immobile
- Drink plenty of water
- Remain active
- Consult your doctors for the implications of blood clotting when on hormonal therapy