The Physicians and Practitioners at VIP would like to acknowledge March, National Deep Vein Thrombosis Awareness Month. This is a public health initiative aimed at raising awareness of this commonly occurring medical condition and its complications, the most serious of which is pulmonary embolism. During the month, VIP will highlight several venous disorders, complications and their potential treatments. The American Heart Association states that up to 2 million Americans are affected annually by DVT, more commonly known as blood clots. Despite this, most Americans (up to 74 percent) have little or no awareness of DVT, according to a national survey sponsored by the American Public Health Association.
Joining me in our discussion of DVT is Catherine Easterwood, FNP-C. Catherine will help us answer some common questions regarding DVT.
What is a DVT?
A DVT (deep vein thrombosis) is a blood clot in one or more of the deep veins, most commonly of the legs. They can occur after periods of immobility such as after surgery or long trips in the car or plane. Other risk factors include older age, tobacco use, obesity, using birth control pills and other hormones, pregnancy and after delivery, trauma, cancer, and genetic bleeding/clotting disorders.
If I have a DVT, what am I going to feel?
You may have swelling, pain (often over the calves), redness, and warmth of the skin.
How does VIP diagnose DVT?
With a painless ultrasound that takes about 15 minutes.
Anything that can be done about DVTs?
Yes, DVTs can be treated with medications that thin your blood. Sometimes these medications will need to be given to you through an IV or injected into the fat of your abdomen, but there are also newer medications that can be taken orally and often you do not need to be hospitalized to take those. Sometimes these medications are only needed for a few months. Some people may need to take them for longer periods of time. It is best to discuss the different medications with your doctor and decide which one would be best for you.
What could happen if I don’t treat it?
The biggest concern of not treating DVTs is the possibility that the clot could move to your heart and/or lungs and potentially be life threatening. Post thrombotic syndrome is another complication in which the valves in the veins that normally transport blood back to the heart become damaged. This can lead to long term issues with leg swelling, pain, skin changes, and even ulcers. Early treatment with blood thinners, elevating your legs, and compression stockings can help prevent post thrombotic syndrome.