You may (or may not) have heard of them before, but after a patient of mine in the ER recently was diagnosed with one of these, I thought it would be worth sharing.
A Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) or “Blood Clot” can be the result of many things. This particular post is geared towards common causes and ways to prevent a DVT. While treatable, a DVT can lead to very serious complications including a Pulmonary Embolism (PE) blood clot in the lungs.
The story goes, this 50 year old male recently went on vacation to the Bahamas. A week long cruise that began with a cross country flight, followed by 7 days of bliss, culminating in another cross country flight back to California.
While on the cruise, he began to notice his leg becoming “sore” as he described. Nothing too much, but he thought he must have strained it on one of his many excursions whether it was kayaking in crystal blue water or swimming with the exotic fish. He didn’t particularly recall an injury, but brushed it off none-the-less attributing it to another ache/pain that he had experienced before.
Fast forward 2 days after his trip, and his leg became “tight” as he described it, and continued to increase in pain. After an ultrasound was performed, there was an occlusive blood clot seen in the “deep” veins of his lower left leg. Treatable, he will be on medication (blood thinners) and closely followed by his doctor.
The take home here? Long trips/travel can increase your risk of blood clots. Because of the prolonged nature of flying and sitting in the same position, the blood doesn’t get circulated as well, and can lead to clot formation. It is entirely possible that he could have prevented this if he stood frequently while traveling, stretched, got his limbs moving a little more, etc.
Other at risk events?
Surgery or bedridden – Surgery or Trauma can put you at increased risk for blood clots
Hormone therapy/Birth Control – This can put you at increased risk for blood clots
Pregnancy / Post Partum – Increased pressure in the pelvis, veins and legs.
Blood disorders – certain blood disorders can lead to “hypercoagability” and lead to blood clots. Usually there is already a family history of this.
Cancer – certain treatments can increase your risk
Casting/immobilization of an extremity – not moving your leg/arm can increase your risk, similar to our patient above.
Paralysis/Paresis – individuals who are physically unable to move are at increased risk
Prolonged travel – this falls into the “not moving your extremities” category, as above
Varicose Veins – a recent study suggests that having Varicose Veins increases your risk of DVT by almost 5x. It is unclear if they CAUSE the DVT, or if it is related to another factor.
Obesity – Increased pressure in the veins, decreased circulation of blood
Smoking – Smoking directly affects your blood clotting and circulation, raising your risk of DVT
Age – Being over 60 can increase your risk, although it can happen with any age
IBS/Crohn’s disease – studies suggest a relation between these conditions and increased risk of DVT.
How can I prevent a DVT?
As with a lot of things, get moving! Being active and healthy is one of the best things you can do for your body. A sedentary life-style is the worst thing for your health. We were created to be active, moving, etc. Studies show that 30 minutes of walking a day can have a dramatic positive effect on your health. The best thing is, you can break that 30 minutes up into smaller segments (10 minutes 3 times a day) of walking. This will help increase your circulation and lower your risk for a myriad of health problems.
As always, be sure to talk to your doctor if you have any concerns. We are available at Vista Complete Care in Auburn, CA for any urgent questions you may have. A DVT can lead to a life-threatening emergency called Pulmonary Embolism (PE), so please call 911 or go to the ER if you are having an emergency, shortness of breath, chest pain, etc.
With our ER patient above, he was treated with blood thinners and discharged home.