Effective Ways to Prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT
Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT is a severe condition in which blood clots within the body’s veins, particularly in the extremities and most often in the legs. DVT can occur due to several reasons. While the symptoms of DVT are often painful and uncomfortable, some cases show no outward signs. DVT can become an emergency or deadly if the blood clot dislodges and travels to the lungs, where it can cause a pulmonary embolism, difficulty breathing, and, in the worst-case scenario, death.
We all know the admonishments about prolonged seated travel, such as long-haul flights or long car trips. And to be sure, this is one of the most significant risk factors in developing DVT. However, most patients don’t realize that sitting for long periods, whether on the airplane or car, at the office, or even at home, can increase the risk of blood clots and other vein issues like varicose veins, spider veins, and venous insufficiency.
How Do We Minimize the Risk of DVT?
Get up and about. If you find yourself sitting for hours on end, you increase the likelihood of blood pooling and clotting in your veins. For some, a standing desk is a great solution. For others, taking a break every half hour to stretch their legs is an excellent way to get a little bit of exercise and avoid this kind of clotting. Your lifestyle at home further reinforces the risk of DVT, so be sure to prioritize walking and activity.
Follow your surgeon’s orders after any surgery. For some patients with a high risk of clotting, an anticoagulant or leg cuffs may be used to reduce the likelihood of a blood clot. However, once home, patients must follow their postoperative plan, which will usually include walking often. This is for a good reason. Walking and exercising after surgery lowers the risk of infection, improves blood flow, and wards off DVT.
Get compression stockings. Compressing stockings may be appropriate if you often travel or lead a relatively sedentary lifestyle. These socks apply graduated pressure to the leg and help ensure blood doesn’t pool in the lower extremities. It’s essential to have these stockings custom-fitted to you, as store-bought options often do not provide appropriate compression. Compression stockings should not be used in place of proper exercise, however. While they may make your legs feel good, there’s nothing that can substitute for adequate blood circulation around the body.
Stay hydrated. It may seem trivial, but dehydration increases the thickness of your blood, allowing for a greater likelihood of a problematic blood clot like DVT. Dehydration also puts unnecessary strain on your heart, forcing it to pump harder to get the same amount of blood around the body. The benefits of proper hydration cannot be overstated, and we look for our patients to drink at least 64 fluid ounces of water a day and sometimes even more, depending on how much they exercise or the weather outside.
Be careful if pregnant. Pregnancy can increase the risk of blood clotting in the extremities, so pregnant women should pay particular attention to stretching their legs and being active, especially during long trips. Be sure to speak to your OB/GYN to ensure your activity level is appropriate during pregnancy.
The adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is accurate for DVT. Allowing DVT to form can be downright dangerous in the right circumstance. If you have any concerns about a potential blood clot, be sure to speak to our office to have it evaluated and treated.