Blood clots are scary, especially when they develop in the deep veins in your legs. A deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is more prone to happen after a surgical procedure or an injury to your leg, but there are other risk factors.
If you're concerned about a DVT, our Vein, Heart, and Vascular Institute specialists have the diagnostic tools to determine if you have this condition. Our team includes heart and vascular care specialist Dr. Hesham Fakhri.
What is deep vein thrombosis?
A DVT is simply a clot that forms in the deep veins in your legs. While the legs are the most common place for a DVT to form, they develop in other areas of the body, too.
When you have a DVT, it's usually because the vein sustained damage from an injury or the blood flow has significantly slowed or stopped within that vein. A clot then forms, causing symptoms that may include:
- Redness or discoloration
- Distended veins
DVTs are serious because a clot in your leg can break off and travel through your bloodstream to your lungs. When the clot settles in your lungs, it's called a pulmonary embolism, which can lead to severe complications.
Even if the DVT doesn't break free from your vein, it can permanently damage that vessel. You can have long-term complications like leg sores and chronic pain.
Major risk factors for a DVT
Knowing your risk factors for a DVT can help you prevent them from forming in the first place. We put together this list of five risk factors that put you at a higher risk for a DVT.
When you're overweight or obese, the excess weight puts extra stress on the veins in your lower body. Along with a sedentary lifestyle, obesity heightens your risk for DVT due to slowed blood flow in your legs.
One of the significant risk factors for a DVT is an injury to the veins in your legs. If you have surgery on any part of your body, especially your legs, you're at risk for a DVT.
Surgery is also a risk because of the time you're motionless during the procedure. Even with sequential compression devices, you're still at an increased risk for clot formation.
When you smoke, it changes the way your blood flows in your body. Smoking increases your risk for clots because it makes your blood thicker and slows the blood flow through your veins.
Moving around gets your heart pumping, which keeps the blood moving in the rest of your body. When you sit for long periods, the blood flow in your legs slows, increasing your risk for a DVT.
Heart failure is another significant risk factor for clot formation. When you have heart failure, your heart can't pump blood through your body effectively, causing it to pool in your lower extremities, which increases your risk for DVT.
Varicose veins, older age, and pregnancy are also risk factors for developing a DVT. If you have any of these factors, speak to our team about how to prevent complications from a DVT.
How you can prevent a DVT
Here are a few of the things you can do to prevent DVTs when you're at risk.
Whether you just had surgery or enjoy lying on the couch, moving around is the key to preventing clots in your legs. Get up every hour and move about a little, even if it’s just walking to the bathroom or kitchen.
Movement keeps your blood moving, decreasing the chances a clot can form.
Wear compression stockings
Specialized compression stockings keep blood from pooling in your legs. The compression helps prevent DVTs, especially after you have surgery or if you have risk factors for DVTs.
Drink plenty of water
Drinking a lot of water is excellent for your health and DVT prevention. Water is essential after surgery or while traveling. If you're at risk for clots, reduce the amount of alcohol you drink, and increase your water intake.
We may suggest anticoagulant medications if you're about to undergo surgery or are at increased risk for a DVT. These medications thin your blood to prevent clots from forming or help keep current clots from getting bigger.
To discuss your risk for developing a DVT, call one of our offices in Wesley Chapel, Sun City Center, or Tampa, Florida, today. You can also schedule an appointment online for a DVT risk assessment.