DVT Awareness Month: What You Need to Know About the Potentially Fatal ‘Sitting Disease’
Deep-Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a type of blood clot that forms in the deep vein of a person’s body, typically in the leg or arm. Although any kind of blood clot poses its own risks, those that originate in deep veins have the potential to break off and travel to major organs in the body, such as the heart and lungs. If this occurs, the dislodged clot could block blood flow and cause death if not treated in time.
DVT is a condition that can strike anyone, no matter age, gender, or race. This March during DVT Awareness Month, make it a priority to educate yourself on the risk factors, symptoms, and treatment options of the ‘Sitting Disease.”
Know the Risk Factors
There are a number of risk factors that can contribute to the development of DVT, but the main ones associated with the condition include:
- Birth Control or Hormone Therapy – Many oral contraceptives contain estrogen, which increases the levels of clotting factors present in the body. Although estrogen does not directly cause blood clots, it can increase your risk by 3-4 times, making those on birth control more susceptible to DVT.
- Sedentary Lifestyle – Sitting for extended periods of time, whether on a long flight or during a full day at the office, can put you at risk for DVT. With sedentary habits comes sluggish blood flow throughout the body, which speaks to the condition’s ‘Sitting Disease’ nickname.
- Smoking – In addition to the added risk of lung cancer and other health problems, smoking also constricts the linings of blood vessels, making it easier for blood clots to form.
Be Wary of These Common Symptoms
Symptoms of DVT can often mimic other muscle-related injuries, such as pulls or strains, and should be quickly addressed if discomfort doesn’t subside. Consult your doctor if you have a prolonged experience of the following:
- Swelling of the leg, ankle, or foot along a vein
- Cramping that starts in the calf and spreads
- Pain or tenderness in the leg that occurs either when standing or walking
- Warmth along the leg
What are the Treatment Options if You Develop DVT?
The most common treatment options for DVT are anticoagulants, or blood thinners, that prevent existing clots from growing and new clots from forming. Blood thinners come with an inherent risk of severe bleeding, so it’s important to weigh the pros and cons associated with each anticoagulant option to determine which one is right for you.
The different blood thinners used to treat DVT include:
- Heparin – Given intravenously by injection, this anticoagulant tends to act quicker than oral medications to thin the blood. Because of this, heparin is often given to patients in addition to an oral anticoagulant until the oral medication begins to work.
- Coumadin (warfarin) – This oral blood thinner has been on the market since 1954 and has a long history of being prescribed to patients. While on this anticoagulant, patients must carefully monitor their diets to avoid Vitamin K, a natural antidote of the medication that reverses the blood-thinning effects. Warfarin doses are also dependent on weekly blood tests to keep your blood’s clotting abilities within normal range.
- Xarelto (rivaroxaban) – This newer oral anticoagulant comes with the convenience factor of no diet changes or weekly blood draws, making it an appealing choice. However, the medication was approved in 2011 without an antidote to reverse its blood-thinning effects, and severe internal bleeding incidents and deaths have been attributed to the medication. Despite still being on the market, there are thousands of Xarelto lawsuits against its manufacturer. It is imperative to consider your lifestyle and weigh the serious risks to determine if this anticoagulant is your best option.
In addition to blood thinners, patients may also be advised to wear medical grade compression stockings designed to treat DVT. It is typical for patients to wear these stockings for up to two years to reduce swelling and prevent the development of more clots.
Deep-Vein Thrombosis can happen to anyone, even if you’re an active and healthy individual. Be mindful of any medications you’re taking that could make you more susceptible to blood clots, and consult your doctor if you experience even minor out-of-the-ordinary symptoms. It may be the one thing that spares you from a potentially fatal complication.