With summer just around the corner, Freeman physicians encourage you to learn the signs of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and examine your legs for symptoms. DVT, a blood clot that develops inside a deep (large) vein, usually occurs in the lower leg, thigh, or hip. This condition can appear in other areas of the body as well.
A recent World Health Organization study found that the risk of developing a blood clot doubles after being stationary – such as traveling by plane or car – for more than four hours. When sitting for prolonged periods of time, blood can pool in your veins, making it easier for blood clots to form. To help prevent DVT during travel, walk around or stretch every 30 minutes, drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol and caffeine consumption. If you have a history of heart problems, blood clots or DVT, consult your physician — he or she may advise you to take a low dose of aspirin (81 mg) prior to your trip or wear compression stockings
People who are especially at risk for DVT are those who: are bedridden or immobile; have poor leg circulation; are overweight or obese; have a personal or family history of heart attack, blood clots, stroke or congestive heart failure; are pregnant or nursing; taking birth control pills containing estrogen or hormone replacement therapy; or have undergone surgery in the last two months, especially for an injury.
It’s important to note that DVT often goes unnoticed, and in nearly 50% of cases, no symptoms are present. If you notice any of the following symptoms, call your physician right away:
- Swelling in the affected area
- Tenderness, pain, or cramping feeling in the area
- Warmth over the affected area
- Changes in skin color, such as turning pale, red or blue
Freeman physicians recommend taking the following steps to prevent DVT:
- Getting annual check-ups
- Exercising regularly
- Maintaining a healthful weight
- Quitting smoking
- Controlling high blood pressure and cholesterol
To diagnose DVT, your doctor will perform a physical exam, and may recommend an ultrasound to determine whether a clot has formed within the deep veins. Ultrasounds are painless and noninvasive. Treatment for DVT is determined by the blood clot’s severity and size. The most common treatment is anti-coagulant medication (blood thinners), which help prevent the clot from getting larger or moving. In very rare cases, your physician may recommend surgery to remove the blood clot.
Untreated, DVT can result in pulmonary embolism (sudden blockage in a lung artery) which typically occurs when a blood clot travels through the blood stream into a lung. If you suspect pulmonary embolism, call 911 or seek emergency medical treatment immediately because the blockage can result in organ damage or death. Symptoms of pulmonary embolism include:
- Sudden shortness of breath
- Chest pain or discomfort that worsens when you move, breathe, or cough
- Back pain
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Rapid pulse
- Coughing up blood
- Unexplained anxiety or nervousness
- Excessive sweating
Residents can rest assured that they're in good hands with Freeman Health System. Freeman offers expert emergency medical care, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at Freeman Hospital West
in Joplin and Freeman Neosho Hospital
in Neosho. Additionally, Freeman Heart & Vascular Institute
provides comprehensive cardiac care.