Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that forms inside one or more veins. DVT occurs most commonly in your lower leg and thigh but can occasionally occur in your arm, chest, or other areas of the body. By conservative estimates, each year as many as 600,000 people in the United States develop deep vein thrombosis, where they can cause pain, swelling, and redness.
More than one in four adults struck by a first DVT or pulmonary embolism are under 50 and is the third most common vascular disease next to stroke and heart attack. DVT can lead to serious, life-threatening complications, such as a pulmonary embolism (where the blood clot travels to the lungs) which kills as many as 100,000 people each year, often suddenly according to the CDC.
Risk Factors Include:
- Family history of blood clots
- Injury or surgery
- Prolonged bed rest or paralysis
- Prolonged travel (driving or flying for many hours)
- Birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy
- History of heart attack, stroke, or heart failure
Recognize the Symptoms:
It can sometimes be difficult to recognize the symptoms of DVT. About half of people with DVT have no symptoms at all. The following are the most common symptoms of DVT that occur in the affected part of the body (usually the leg or arm):
- Swelling of your leg or arm
- Unexplained pain or tenderness
- Skin that is warm to the touch
- Redness of the skin
You can have a Pulmonary Embolism (PE) without any symptoms of a DVT. Symptoms of a PE can include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Faster than normal or irregular heartbeat
- Chest pain or discomfort, which usually worsens with a deep breath or coughing
- Coughing up blood
- Lightheadedness, or fainting
If you have any of these symptoms of a potential pulmonary embolism, seek medical help immediately.
Once a blood clot is gone, DVT sometimes leaves behind an unpleasant reminder. You may see long-term swelling or changes in skin color and have pain where the clot was. This is known as post-thrombotic syndrome which can show up as much as a year after the blood clot.
Studies have shown long-distance travel, a trip that lasts more than 4 hours, doubles the risk of developing DVT. It doesn't matter if you go by air, bus, train, or car. When you're in a cramped seat and don't move around, your blood flow slows.
When you travel for more than 4 hours, avoid tight clothing and drink plenty of water. Get up and walk around at least every couple of hours. If you have to stay in your seat, stretch and move your legs. Try clenching and releasing your calves and thighs, or lifting and lowering your heels with your toes on the floor. Walking, or raising and lowering your heels while sitting, engages your calf muscles, squeezing veins and propelling blood upward, which helps prevent DVT.