Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) refers to a blood clot that develops inside a larger vein – usually deep within the lower leg or thigh. Symptoms may include redness, swelling of the legs or pain and local tenderness. DVT cause up to 100,000 deaths each year.
The immediate danger is that part of the clot can break off and travel through the bloodstream, where it can lodge in the lungs causing a blockage in blood flow, organ damage, and in many cases death.
A blood clot that blocks the blood supply to the lungs is called a pulmonary embolism. Symptoms include trouble breathing, low blood pressure, fainting, faster heart rate, chest pain, and coughing up blood. If you have any of these symptoms, call 911 or go to the emergency room.
The following people have an increased chance of developing a DVT:
• People with cancer
• People who had surgery
• Anyone with extended bed rest
• The elderly
• Overweight or obese
• Long distance travel
Compression stockings apply pressure to keep the blood in the legs from pooling and clotting. They reduce swelling and help relieve discomfort in a leg where a clot has already formed. You can get compression stockings over the counter or by prescription. Also to reduce swelling and discomfort, keep the affected leg raised when possible.
Frequent exercise also helps reduces the risk of DVT. Quit smoking or if needed begin a physician overseen weight loss program.
When traveling for more than four hours, avoid tight clothing and drink plenty of water. Get up and walk around at least every two to three hours. If you have to stay in your seat, find ways to keep the legs active. Try clenching and releasing your leg muscles or lifting and lowering your heels with your toes on the floor. And be sure to do plenty of sightseeing by foot once you arrive.