Written By: Emma Squillace
March is National DVT Awareness month. DVT – or Deep Vein Thrombosis – is a dangerous condition where a blood clot forms deep inside your body. Most commonly, a DVT is a blood clot in the leg, but there are also cases of a DVT in the arms or abdomen. Many patients who come see us for varicose veins, do not know that these visible veins can be related to DVT. Today we will cover some FAQs about DVT, and why it’s so important to be aware of your vein health.
What does DVT feel like?
DVT can have almost no symptoms, or it can be very painful. Some people notice warmth and swelling in the area where the blood clot has formed. Some see a color change in their skin to a red, blue, or purple color. For some people, there is notable pain associated with a DVT. However, DVTs can be hard to pinpoint because other conditions can have similar symptoms – for instance a sprained ankle.
Why is DVT so dangerous?
The most dangerous complication of DVT is when a blood clot becomes loose and travels through your circulatory system, into a major organ like the lungs. When this happens, it is called a Pulmonary Embolism (PE). A PE is highly dangerous, and can be fatal. In fact, it is estimated that DVTs and PEs kill more people each year than car accidents do.
How are varicose veins tied to DVT?
A varicose vein is usually twisted and swollen. Varicose veins are veins – often in the legs – that have problems with blood flow, and can cause ongoing pain, heavy legs, and itching. While varicose veins are generally close to the surface of the skin, veins with DVT tend to be farther away from the skin. However, there is a link between varicose veins and DVT. Varicose veins may be a sign of vein problems deeper in the legs. At West Medical, we are able to view your veins using a non-invasive ultrasound. This allows us to give patients a significant level of detail about their vein structure and any potential issues. It is important not to ignore varicose veins, because they cannot get better on their own, and can increase the chance of DVT.
When is the risk for DVT highest?
In situations where your movement is limited, there is a stronger potential to form a dangerous blood clot. Long plane rides are a good example, because your legs can be stuck in a single position for hours at a time. People on bed rest can also be especially prone to DVT.
What can I do to help prevent DVT?
If you’re going to have a long flight, there are some things you can do to help lower your risk of DVT:
- Try to get an aisle seat so you can stretch your legs a little and stand up more regularly – even if it’s just for a minute or two.
- Aim to stand and move your legs around every hour if possible.
- If you can’t stand up, a fun way to get your circulation going is to draw each letter of the alphabet with your feet. This movement will get blood flowing through your ankles and calves.
- From your seat, straighten one leg as much as you can, and draw three circles with your foot. Put that leg down and repeat the same thing with your other leg. Do 5 repetitions of this several times through the flight.
- Drink water to make sure you stay hydrated – this can help with blood flow.
- If you have a history of DVT, ask your doctor if a blood thinner would make sense for your flight.
Finally, if you have varicose veins, it’s a good idea to have them checked by a vein specialist. They can help you understand the severity of those weakened veins, and whether there are health concerns associated with them. Often times insurance will cover the cost of treating varicose veins, because they are a medical condition. At West Medical we use state-of-the-art equipment to examine your veins and make recommendations about your treatment options. If you’d like to speak with one of our vein experts, please call us at (855) 690-0565.