Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is scary, but most people don’t know much about it or are a little vague on the details. DVT can be life-threatening and even fatal. It’s worth knowing what the specific risk factors for DVT are so that you can recognize it in yourself and others.
DVT is a serious condition that develops when a blood clot forms in a deep vein, one of your body’s major veins, usually in one of your legs. It can also occur in your pelvic area or your arms.
The forming of the blood clot is what is called deep vein thrombosis. This can cause swelling, and you might feel localized pain. It becomes more dangerous if the blood clot breaks free from the vein wall and moves through your bloodstream to other parts of your body.
Although rare, it can cut off the blood flow to your lungs. The medical name for this condition is a pulmonary embolism (PE) and it can be potentially life-threatening. DVT and PE together are known as venous thromboembolism.
Like many diseases, you can lower the risk of DVT by following a healthy diet, exercise regime, and lifestyle. Find out more about DVT risk factors below, and what can be done to reduce the risks.
Although you can have DVT at any age, your odds are increased over the age of 40 and increase further over the age of 50. Other risk factors such as a sedentary lifestyle, a family history of DVT, cigarette smoking, and a BMI (body mass index) that is too high will make DVT more likely as you get older.
Use of Birth Control
Women taking combination hormonal birth control (estrogen and progestin) are at risk of developing blood clots. Birth control pills present a lower risk than either the patch or vaginal ring.
Research has revealed that birth control pills containing the progestin hormone drospirenone are more likely to cause blood clots than birth control pills that do not. Not all blood clots cause a pulmonary embolism. The number of women who develop PE as a result of birth control pills could be lower than the FDA statistic of 3 to 9 in 10,000.
DVT is not common during pregnancy, but CDC studies show that pregnant women are at least five times more likely to develop DVT than women who are not pregnant.
One of the most common causes of pregnancy-related death in the United States is pulmonary embolism, even though blood clots are preventable.
The reason pregnant women are more at risk for developing DVT is that the level of blood-clotting proteins increases during pregnancy. At the same time, anticlotting protein levels decrease.
DVT in pregnancy is not always easy to diagnose from symptoms alone. Your doctor might arrange for a D-dimer test, which will determine whether your blood clotting function is normal. If necessary, that will be followed by a Doppler ultrasound to determine whether blood flow is slowed or blocked at any point in your circulatory system.
The third phase of testing, if required, is what is commonly referred to as a venogram. MRV, or magnetic resonance venography, is useful to determine or exclude the incidence of deep vein thrombosis and other vascular disorders.
Specialists can, of course, perform these tests whether you are pregnant or not.
Are Risk Factors for DVT Greater for Women or Men?
It seems from research that the incidence of first venous thrombosis is higher among women of childbearing age than men of the same age group. Excluding female reproductive risk factors, slightly more men than women develop DVT in later years. This is a generalization that is dependent on other risk factors, such as the ones discussed below.
Heart Disease and Cancer
If you have a chronic condition such as heart disease or cancer, you’re at risk of DVT.
People with heart disease, diseases of the lungs, and inflammatory bowel disease are at risk of getting DVT. People who have cancer or are undergoing treatment for cancer are also at risk of developing DVT.
What is important here is to pay attention to possible symptoms, and make a note of them if necessary. Symptoms of DVT may vary depending on where in the body the thrombosis occurs. If you think you might be at risk, familiarize yourself with all possible symptoms and seek medical attention if you are anxious.
This guide to DVT explains what treatments are available if you receive a diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis. Seeking treatment early is of the essence.
If you have injured your muscles badly or fractured a bone, it’s possible that the inner wall of a nearby vein has been damaged. Many sports injuries fall into this category. Such injuries make the formation of blood clots more likely.
Pay attention to pain and cramps, particularly in the calf muscles, even if that is not the location of the injury.
Major surgery to your stomach, pelvis, hip, or leg makes you more prone to developing deep vein thrombosis. Normally hospital staff will monitor this, and check you for symptoms as a matter of course. If you are still hospitalized when DVT occurs, you can at least take comfort knowing that you are already in the best place to receive proper treatment!
If you have extended periods of bed rest, or have been in the hospital for another condition, say, your risk of developing DVT is higher. Lack of exercise and movement contribute to poor blood circulation. In turn, this leads to an increased likelihood of blood clots forming.
Massages for bedridden patients who are not yet strong enough to walk are beneficial. They increase blood circulation, and, as a happy side effect, help to prevent bedsores.
If a patient is unable to move on their own, a carer should change their position frequently. Alternatively, a ripple mattress can help maintain good blood circulation for the period of confinement in bed.
People who sit for long periods at a stretch are definitely at higher risk of DVT. You should get up from a sitting position at least every two hours, walk around and do some gentle stretching exercises. Swollen ankles are one indication of poor blood circulation.
If a parent or sibling has had DVT, you’re more at risk of getting it too. If both of your parents have been diagnosed with DVT, your chances may be even higher.
It is important always to know the medical history of your family, since this may even help doctors when diagnosing your symptoms. Be careful to note the ages at which various family members begin suffering these conditions. It is likely that when you reach their age, you will experience similar complaints.
Blood Clotting Disorders
Excessive clotting disorders fall under the general term of hypercoagulation. This means that your blood is “thicker” than it should be as it circulates your body. Taking anti-coagulants is the standard treatment for such disorders.
Hypercoagulation is a genetic as well as an acquired disorder. Excessive blood clotting is usually triggered by other diseases or conditions discussed elsewhere in this article.
High Body Mass Index
BMI measures how much fat you have compared to your height and weight. From the price of a single coin, you can get a BMI print-out from the electronic floor scales normally located in pharmacies for customers to weigh themselves.
If you already know how much you weigh, you can use this chart to calculate your BMI. A BMI of 25 and over indicates that you are overweight and have an elevated risk of getting DVT.
Being overweight also means that you fall into other DVT risk groups since you will also have an increased risk of developing heart disease and compromising your blood circulation caused by a possible difficulty in exercising sufficiently. You may even acquire an excessive clotting disorder.
Yes. Quit smoking and lower your risk of getting DVT. Even smokers in their thirties suffer DVT and PE.
The free radicals released into the bloodstream from smoking tobacco affect the coagulation and anticoagulation balance in the blood. In other words, the blood becomes “stickier” and more prone to clotting. Tobacco also causes other biochemical changes to occur, some of which affect the innermost lining of the veins.
Reduce the Risk of DVT
You can reduce your chances of developing DVT by being aware of the risk factors for DVT. We recommend that you stay active. By sticking to a regular exercise program, even if it is only walking, you lower the risk of getting a blood clot.
Take good care of your health. If you need to give up smoking, do so. The same applies to losing weight. Those of you who have heart disease, diabetes, or other chronic illness should follow your doctor’s advice on how to manage these health issues.
Now that you’ve gotten through all the scary stuff, we hope you’ll stick around to enjoy the wonderful articles on all aspects of health that we have on our blog.