National Thrombosis Week is upon us, and therefore looking into the facts behind this condition has never seemed so relevant. A bit of a mouthful, and therefore more commonly known as DVT, deep vein thrombosis affects approximately 1 in every 1,000 individuals in the UK.
Whilst it isn't very common, the effects can be dangerous or even fatal. If you're uncertain about what DVT is, there's a clue is in the title.
Deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot in one of the deep veins in your body, usually running through the calf or thigh. It can cause pain, and if untreated, the clot can move towards your lungs, causing a serious condition called pulmonary embolism.
The older you get the more likely you are to develop DVT, however, there are a number of other risk factors to consider that may result in a restricted blood flow or blood that clots more easily:
This seems like a never-ending list of risks, however if you have suffered from one or more of these factors, it doesn't necessarily mean you're going to get DVT. It's just an increased chance.
If your DVT isn't treated, the clot can develop into a pulmonary embolism – a blood clot located in your lungs having moved from the original place - with severe symptoms that require instant medical attention. To treat, you are given anticoagulant medicines that stop the blood clot getting bigger and, eventually, disperse it.
The tricky thing about DVT is that sometimes it may display no symptoms whatsoever. However, here are some possible symptoms you may experience:
From experience, you can have a number of these symptoms from an infected insect bite, for example, meaning DVT is extremely difficult to recognise.
The symptoms of pulmonary embolism are more severe than DVT – it would be difficult to ignore. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms do seek medical help as soon as you can:
With the no symptoms element resulting in many untreated cases of DVT, it is important to do what you can to reduce your risk:
Not only will these factors reduce the risk of DVT, but by monitoring your health frequently and embracing a healthy lifestyle, you can keep your blood pressure and cholesterol down, and reduce the risks of many other health conditions.
Also referred to as "blood-thinning" medicine, anticoagulation medicines prevent the blood clot(s) from getting bigger and travelling around the body. There are two types of anticoagulants; heparin and warfarin:
The most frequently prescribed medication for DVT is heparin, and this is also available in two forms:
Warfarin can only be taken in oral tablet form and is often prescribed after taking the original heparin if your symptoms have not completely cleared up. This isn't one for the needle-phobes, with warfarin requiring two to three blood tests a week.
It may not have the same punch as the C word, or the coverage, but deep vein thrombosis is a potential killer and it's simple and essential to get yourself sorted.